I want my hour back! All week, I've felt as if I've been scrambling, because I have. I blame it on the clock; I really need and use that extra hour in the morning . . . when I wake at 7am instead of 6:00, I'm already well behind.
But it's not just the hour I'd like to retrieve, I'd like to travel back in time please. With news that the Coronavirus will likely get worse before it gets better; that trade and industry has essentially halted in much of the world; that travel has virtually been shut down; that concerts and sporting events have been cancelled; that schools and universities have been suspended; that borders are closed, and that the stock market has dropped precipitously, there's no wonder there's a fair amount of anxiety and fear among the populous. We've been spoon-fed nothing but alarming news, AND to be fair, it IS rather alarming . . . . (Heck, even toilet paper is sold out.)
Is this "business as usual?" It is decidedly NOT!
Still, it was an especially busy week for Sarah, Jill, and I as we accepted offers on both 426 Pala Avenue and 43 Farragut in Piedmont. These two properties represented different ends of the pricing spectrum and like the nervous Sellers who own them, we too were wondering just how the rapid stock-market decline, not to mention the unknowns surrounding Covid-19, would affect their outcomes. (Happily, both properties are now securely in contract and both did extremely well, despite the daily news.)
To set the stage, we'd held the homes open on consecutive weekends to enormous fanfare, and followed up with double-digit requests for disclosure packages for each. (Always a welcome sign.) As is par for the course, Agents began to make the appropriate inquiries and line up their offers. To be clear, there's always a fair amount of jockeying that takes place within the last 24 hours before offers are accepted, but with respect to both these homes, there was clearly much more . . . .
"My client feels uneasy putting in an offer given the sudden market volatility." came several last-minute responses from Buyers' Agents that were all but set to hit the "send" button - and then didn't. (Fair enough, we'll miss you.)
But for Buyers who have been sitting on the sidelines or in the losing position more often than they care to recall, I want to encourage you to strike while others find themselves paralyzed in the moment. With historically-low interest rates and fewer Buyers at the table, homes may have just became more affordable. Be poised for off-market opportunities as well, as they are likely to increase dramatically. In other words, Sellers may prefer to take "the bird in the hand," rather than lose time, given that no one knows where we are headed. (All the more reason to work with an area specialist!)
As for anxious Sellers, here's what I passed along late last night to clients and friends of mine who have recently relocated and are now wondering if they mistimed their move:
1) I want to reassure you that we have been here before and survived. The financial meltdown of 2008 affected our marketplace dramatically, as did 9/11, but in both cases, the stock market recovered in quick order, as did the housing market.
2) You have an emotionally engaging, turn-key property and any improvements we make, should only improve its appeal. Given its location, your house sells in ANY market.
3) You bought for far less than your home's current market value; consequently, if the market provides less than we anticipated a month ago, you should still see a sizable profit.
4) There is typically a lag time between a drop in the stock market and a drop in the housing market. In the meantime, we’re moving swiftly to get your house to the marketplace well before that happens.
5) Markets are relative! Should the market negatively impact housing prices here, they will also affect prices on the buy side as well. As you are moving out of area, any correction is probably going to be deeper in the next locale, potentially putting you in the "plus" column.
6) No one is forcing you to sell your home. You can always pull your listing should it fail to meet expectations and rent the house instead. Rentals are in high demand in the Bay Area and a listing agreement is just an offer to sell; it's not a forced sale.
7) Housing is a non-negotiable necessity. No matter what the market does, people still need places to live and that's a dream for which most of us are unlikely to compromise.
8) There’s still not enough supply to meet demand. Demand is what drives pricing - not the stock market.
9) Interest rates hit a 50-year low last week, making this an EXCELLENT time to buy. While they've adjusted slightly up this week, interest rates on jumbo loans are still historically low. Refi requests jumped 75% week-over-week for good reason.
10) Savvy Buyers and investors will understand that today's market is an opportunity. Why put your money into falling stocks when you can put it into something far more tangible (like real estate)? Gratefully for us, Bay Area real estate tends to hold its value far more than in other areas of the country. (This may finally be my chance to own in Santa Cruz.)
Finally, as none of us control the Coronavirus OR the stock market, we can only control what’s in our field of influence. With the knowledge that no team brings a house to market better than we do, nor will anyone else care for it as diligently as Jill, Sarah and I will, let's set our intentions towards a positive outcome with faith and trust, believing that Buyers will continue to recognize the "value proposition." (They will.) Having sold real estate through the last downturn, I know this to be true, so hang in there. If all else fai ls, ride out the wave.
While I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball, nor do I know where any of this ultimately lands, I believe wholeheartedly in our ability to weather the storm together - always together.
How can I help you?
Real life, real solutions, real results . . . Real Estate.
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.