Let's just start with a collective sigh . . . and then take a deep breath. (I think we've earned it.)
With news that the vast majority of us are "non-essential" (that hurts) and consequently, are mandated to "Shelter in Place," it's clear that every segment of society is going to be affected by Covid-19, no matter who we are OR how we pay our bills. While fear of contracting the virus has been rampant among many (my 94-year-old mother-in-law isn't leaving her recliner), the resulting stock market losses will take much longer to resolve, and potentially, cut much deeper. In short, we all need to get back to work before industries (and people) can begin to heal, and there is a LOT of healing to do! (Were it only that simple.)
It's not hyperbole to suggest that we are in unprecedented territory, but as for how "Shelter in Place" applies to Real Estate . . . is it tough to sell a house remotely? (Yes, it is.)
So what does this new, chaotic landscape mean for Sellers, Buyers, interest rates, and the Spring Market?
It's a game changer to be sure.
Given that ALL Open Houses and Brokers' Tours have been canceled through the next few weeks (and potentially much longer), Realtors can no longer rely on strong public attendance at our listings. During the past decade+, HUGE demand coupled with sparse supply, typically equated to multiple offers and often carried the resulting sales higher than expected, making for incredibly happy Sellers. (You're welcome.) Now, with a rapidly-emerging and uncertain dynamic at play, I'm fairly certain that the previously successful marketing plan of two Sunday Opens, followed by a scheduled offer date, and then a quick close of escrow, is about to undergo a radical shift. (Watch how quickly experienced Realtors now pivot and why you should ALWAYS work locally!)
Thank goodness online marketing has already been firmly established. Dedicated property websites are going to be more important than ever and good news, 93% of all Buyers already begin their hunt for a home on the Internet. Therefore, we don't need to change Buyers' behavior in this regard; it's already ingrained. Moreover, as COMPASS has been on the forefront of real estate technology, they have been able to establish themselves rather quickly as a major contender; COMPASS is where technology meets real-life experience. Take it from an Agent that came through the 2008 financial meltdown and lived to tell the tale (that's me), both Buyers and Sellers are going to need every tool at their disposal - and so will their Agents! (It's nice to be in the right place at the right time.)
And just between you and me, Weekend Open Houses are actually a not-so-secret weapon to market Agents, more so than properties. Realtors have gladly and gratefully hosted Open Houses to meet your neighbors and any prospective Sellers or Buyers that happen by. The truth is, your property is much more likely to be sold by a Buyer's Agent during a private showing than at a chance meeting at an Open House.
Why? Because Buyers need a chance to overcome their objections before placing a bid on a house and they can't do that when distracted by others.
With that said, virtual tours and great photos are critical to the success of your sale ("Great" being the operative word here; dark bathrooms with musty-looking towels never sold a house online), especially as none of us know just how long group gatherings are going to be frowned upon. That's assuming the powers that be will allow photographers and videographers to do their jobs. (Without that, we're at a standstill.)
Moreover, expect "transparent" pricing to replace "strategic" pricing as we move back to "offers as written," or "first come, first served." If you thought two weeks was a quick turnaround with respect to pending sales, we may find ourselves moving faster still. (The "bird-in-the-hand" is going to be highly prized.)
Buyers, now is the time to recheck your qualifications and make sure your loan approval is up to date and in good standing. With higher interest rates due to lower than expected bond sales, and a heavy hit to many of our stock portfolios, you may no longer qualify for the same amount your were all but promised a few weeks ago. How much a bank will NOW lend you is going to be important to understand as you move forward, as chances are, when you DO find the right house, you may need to pounce!
But should Buyers pounce given that home prices may soften over the next several months? That's up to you, but as the "right house" is a unique proposition, it's unlikely to be waiting for you a few months down the road. Moreover, Buyers have far more power than they did just last month, primarily because they'll be fewer of you. Why not use your advantage while others are stepping back? This could be your golden opportunity.
As for Sellers, many of you may now want to wait and I can see how that may make good sense, especially in light of current SIP orders that have essentially shut down the practice of Real Estate altogether. Except that it hasn't (not entirely) and because none of us has a clue as to whether your property is going to be worth more - or less - 3, 6, or 9 months from today, you may want to proceed as planned. Today, houses are still selling. The concept that we can only speak to the market in which we are currently in, has never been more true.
In any case, whatever you decide, we're here for you. With the knowledge that things may get tougher before they get better, we're in this together (always together) and we are going to do our best to deliver you a fantastic result - no matter what!
How can we help you?
Real life, real solutions, real results . . . REAL ESTATE!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.