While working in my garden the other day, wondering what to write . . . and feeling rather CRABBY about the entire state of affairs, this lovely note popped into my inbox and was just the tonic I needed to elevate my mood. I'm sharing it here (unedited) because it captures the moment so much better than another real-estate pep talk from me ever could.
This note is TRAGICALLY overdue and frankly should be handwritten . . . but in the interest of time, I've decided to use this medium in order to ensure a swift delivery.
We cannot thank you enough for the help, hand holding, and dedication you showed us last year in helping us find our home. This has turned out to be the best decision we have ever made and we could not be happier. . .
With Violet coming fast we knew we needed more space . . . that was certain! But no one could have predicted this "Shelter-in-Place" order and the changes we would all be facing this year. As we sit in our backyard and watch our girls play in the sandbox and water table, or run past the flowers, we are so grateful to be outside in our own space. Or when we dance around with them in the living room . . . I cannot even imagine how this shelter program would be going if we were still in our 2-bedroom condo.
This house has been a true gift to our family and our hearts are full as we watch these girls grow and enjoy their new surroundings. The house, the neighborhood, the whole package is more than we would have dreamed of and we just have to say thank you! Thank you for your guidance and support - you and Jill are true masters and wonderful partners and we are happy to call you our Realtors for life.
V & K
So at the risk of blowing my own horn, this note illustrates just how important our homes have become to all of us, in a time of unknowns and invisible battles, AND why, despite the difficulties Realtors are experiencing simply trying to show houses (gloves, masks, entry forms, sanitary wipes, your first born, etc.), properties are still, in fact, selling at a fairly brisk pace.
Which isn't to say we're anywhere near the volume of sales we enjoyed last year with respect to homeownership. Across the board, the number of sales are down 56%, including here in Piedmont, so I don't mean to imply that it's "business as usual." It's not - in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS is it "business as usual," nor anywhere close to it, NOR should we expect an immediate return to normalcy once the Shelter-in-Place mandate is lifted. To the contrary, we as a society, are very likely going to be forging a "new normal" going forward. What "normal" looks like is anybody's guess and may still be weeks away, if not several months. (Hat's off to every parent of school-age children trying to keep it together. There's a reason more of us don't "home school.")
That being said, people still need homes and they are actively seeking them - even in the midst of a pandemic! If that's not the very essence of hope and faith, I don't know what is.
Are properties selling for last year's prices? Not necessarily. As there are fewer Buyers who now qualify, savvy Sellers should be putting great stock in the Buyer that can perform and close quickly. While none of us knows what tomorrow will bring, it's a fairly safe bet that it's going to take more than a few weeks, few months, or even a few years to get back to the prosperity we enjoyed during the last decade's run. However, if you adjust your expectations and understand things could be far worse, you're certain to find a willing and able Buyer, even if it requires more time, more patience, and more flexibility than in the recent past. (A LOT has changed since February.)
Because Sellers are often the last to pivot when a market correction is imminent (I know, it's hard to process.) let's understand that overbidding and outrageous results were driven by high demand and multiple offers. Without that, we're back to a more-level-playing field come time to sell. Here's the good news - in Piedmont at least - demand is still outstripping supply. With only three houses on the market, Buyers have very little choice but to wait or to buy what's available.
So what's the silver lining? Homes have never held more emotional value.
Will housing stock increase once SIP is lifted? It certainly might . . . and probably will.
Homes that weren't quite ready for prime time, OR that were impossible to prep as gardeners, contractors, housekeepers, and painters were deemed "non-essential," OR were owned by Sellers that felt it more prudent to wait, found themselves in an unfortunate holding pattern. Once our crews can get back to work, we'll undoubtedly be bringing these listings to market as quickly as we possibly can.
However, if you've got a home that's ready to go, I wouldn't wait.The old adage that your value is only ever relevant in today's market has never been more true. Moreover, lending criteria is only going to get tighter and likely more scarce as we move through the next several months. In short, strike while the iron is still relatively hot and loans are still available.
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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.