The restrictions on showing homes are easing up somewhat, making more homes more accessible. This is better than it was back in late March, when showing most homes here was difficult.
I do want to say that this is a continually moving target subject to constant change so by the time this appears, things could very well be different. Keep in mind that the restrictions on real estate are dictated by the local counties so things can be different throughout the state.
Some things you can’t do. Open houses are still not allowed so the only way to see a home is with a Realtor. The Sunday ritual of driving around looking at open houses is out. For some people this will be frustrating because access to homes is much more restrictive. I know this is going to upset some, but you can’t drag your mother-in-law around for her helpful constructive comments.
You can’t just walk in to a real estate office asking about properties as they aren’t allowed to be open for that purpose. You can visit a real estate office to do paperwork.
Usually we Realtors are very familiar with all the homes on the market as we normally preview all new listings. For now, our weekly brokers’ tour is canceled so we aren’t as familiar with the new listings as we would like to be. We can look at all the pictures and virtual tours but that’s not the same as seeing it in the flesh.
Let’s talk about what you can do. Before entering every home, you will be asked to sign a Coronavirus Advisory Addendum. You must wear a face mask. Many homes provide hand sanitizers at the front door.
The number of people entering a home is limited to two plus your Realtor. This is true for both vacant and occupied homes. You may have to leave the kids and mother-in-law at home or show homes in groups of two.
Some listings want you to confirm you’ve seen a virtual tour before seeing it in person. A few agents are actually requiring proof of funds or pre-approval letter prior to a first showing. This may backfire as many people like to protect their privacy, especially if they haven’t even shown a high interest in the property.
In the past, when entering a home, you may have noticed the smell of baked cookies or some fragrance in the air. Now that’s being replaced by the scent of Lysol. A few liquor companies are making disinfectants too so you may smell Jack Daniels in the air.
Of course, the big question is how will these restrictions effect real estate this year? Should I buy, sell or sit tight? Well, the results over the past two months have been interesting and perhaps different than you might expect.
Home prices are in record territory through end of May, quite a contrast to the stock market. Sales volume is way off from last year, and that’s off a weak 2019. That’s to be expected as half of March and all of April we were in sort of a lock down with limited showing opportunities.
But when the restrictions were loosened up in early May, activity picked up. Where you really see that is in the inventory levels. While total inventory levels are down 24 percent from last year, the percentage of homes sale pending is much higher this year. The actual number of pending sales is about the same as last year, but there are a lot fewer available homes this year. That tight inventory situation is helping homes sell quickly.
It should also be pointed out that this is historically the time of year when many homes come on the market. I think many listings were delayed during the shutdown, but now that things are loosening up I expect inventory to build up.
The restrictions now are pretty manageable and as time goes on, I expect them to be continually relaxed. Open houses and our weekly brokers’ tour will probably be the last items to be resumed. Even then, I wonder how many people, be it buyers or sellers, will want to go into a crowded home with lots of people. That’s going to depend on consumer attitudes.
Steven Hyman is the broker and owner of Century 21 Sunset Properties. He can be reached at 726-6346 or at century21sunset.com.