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The world has been turned upside by the COVID-19 outbreak, and the real-estate profession is no exception. The Sun Gazette checked in with top area professionals to get their take on where the market is, and where it is headed.

Interviews were conducted April 6-8:

Lauren Kivlighan, Northern Virginia Real Estate: “We have solid fundamentals for a healthy real estate market here all around. When we rebound things will work out for us in the long run. Home prices, unlike the stock market, do not move quickly one way or the other. Today, builders have been under-producing, so we have had a housing shortage - unlike the market scare 12 years ago when builders were over-producing with an overabundance of supply, along with the sub-prime loan situation. Our spring market, while it may be pushed back for a couple of months into summer, should be robust.”

Terry Belt, Keller Williams: One of the few rays of sunshine in our local economy now is the housing market. Homes continue to sell quickly with very healthy buyer demand, and inventory continues to be low like it has been for the past several years. The real-estate community is adjusting and taking the necessary precautions and using more technology and virtual tools for our seller and buyer clients to ensure homes are sold safely and successfully. Values have not been affected at all like the stock market, and it is still a great time to be a seller. Interest rates remain at historically low levels.”

Barbara Lewis, Washington Fine Properties: “We are still selling homes and doing it with the utmost care of safety and protection by wearing booties, gloves, masks and using lots of sanitizers. Sunny days will be ahead and we should see a robust real estate market, especially since we are in a highly desirable location with many people relocating here, and many of those already here will want to move to a larger home or smaller home to reflect the change in their lifestyles.”

Gloria Adams, TTR Sotheby’s International: I do believe the local market is steady, and the phones are ringing. As we go forward, I think we will be fine.”

Bill Groom, Buchanan & Groom: “A few of the rays of sunshine are the creative ways both buyers and sellers are discovering in each unique situation. While some are facing bouts of loneliness, those in a real-estate relationship with their Realtor always have a source for problem-solving discussions. Realtors are also great sources for trusted vendors, as home maintenance, including roofs, continue needing to be maintained, repaired or replaced.”

Betsy Twigg, McEnearney Associates: “This is going to turn the world upside down with housing and real estate. People will find they like being home and staying at home. The home will be more important and we will discover they can cook again. With so  many working from home now, people will want office space in their homes, where they can close the door and work. I think a lot of companies will do away with offices and have employees work from home. That could hurt the commercial real estate market. Renters in apartments and condos with people on top of each other might want to move to bigger spaces with more privacy. Interest rates will remain low, so there will be opportunities.”

Jack Shafran, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: Right now I am seeing a lot of pent-up demand caused by this situation. The problem is, the inventory isn’t good enough. People are doing workarounds (like wearing facemasks). Some, though, aren’t, or are hesitating to put homes on the market right now because they don’t want people walking around in their homes. As soon as we get some good news, I think more will put their homes on the market. ”

Ann Wilson, Keller Williams: “I’m hopeful and grateful. What I’ve learned from the past couple of weeks is that the new future has arrived. The best way to be ready for it is to be able to let go of your current plans and make new ones. Don’t waste valuable time and energy trying to make things work like they used to. I see the current situation as an opportunity to pause, reflect and learn from this experience so I can fully understand what I’m doing and what I want to do. There isn’t a normal – new or old. We need to work with what we have, be thankful, and shift our energy and resources to what we can change.”

Karen Briscoe, Huckaby, Briscoe, Conroy Realty Group, Keller Williams: “Like after 9/11, people will be looking for real estate like more of a compound, because they will want more privacy and physical distance between their neighbors. They will want their homes to be a sanctuary. To me, there will be a major shift in perspective away from the desire to be urban, and I am seeing this as a trend across the nation, not just locally. This will make Great Falls ‘great’ again.”

Mark Middendorf, Long & Foster: “If anything, all of this has challenged Realtors to change some ways they go about doing business and scramble to best service their clients in a safe way. Some of these practices will become a regular way to do business in the future, like virtual tours. With all of this, we are so grateful to work in this market, because there is always business out there.”

Casey Samson, Samson Properties: “The silver lining is that it has changed, in a good way, the way we do business forever. Online presentations allow us to reach more people in a far more comprehensive way and some safety protocols are good regardless of the environment. The market has cooled, which is not a bad thing. It was overheating in many places at an unhealthy pace. We had one home get 41 contracts and one sold for $100,000 over list. That is not healthy. We launched three listings this week and two sold and the other one is close to ratification, which is a good, but healthy, market.”

Dean Yeonas, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate:: “There is still a lot of action and business going on, but fundamentally, right now, we are operating in low inventory because people have deferred their decisions about putting homes on the market. Once we get some certainty back in the market, we will have a pretty healthy market.”

Eli Tucker, Eli Residential Group: “There are certainly still positive signs that our market will be able to withstand the COVID crisis a bit longer without significant price drops, because supply remains extremely low, with less inventory coming on than a normal spring. So, prices should hold up against a significant drop in demand. However, we are far from guaranteed to come out of this anytime soon, and no market can withstand months of complete economic shutdown. That risk is very real.”

Rob Ferguson, Re/Max Allegiance: “I do see things continuing a little slower, but we have see some get into the market because there is less competition and there is an opportunity. It’s a week-to-week thing and it will probably be that way for a while, because of so much uncertainty. A lot of things right now are on a ‘need’ basis, not a ‘want’ basis.”

John Mentis, Long & Foster: “There’s always sunshine in the real-estate market. It’s the amount of clouds that changes. Right now, motivated buyers and renters are still buying and renting, and the same can be said for sellers and landlords. The number of each is less than in the pre-COVID-19 market, but people still need a place to live, so the market remains active.”

Dawn Wilson, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty: “Despite the new environment we are working under, houses are still going under contract and settlements are still happening.  There have been new procedures put in place for everyone in the local real-estate industry with regard to best practices and keeping everyone involved as safe as possible. Much of what is being done now is being done ‘virtually.’ It has been amazing to see the speed at which all of the different people involved and the companies assisting in different steps of the process have adapted.”

Diane Lewis, Washington Fine Properties: “We had a very strong start to the year, so when the situation improves we should see the local market start to rebound faster than other areas. There also is still a lot of demand for people who want to move up or downsize. The market has obviously been quiet the last few weeks, but homes are still selling and we are seeing activity on our listings, which is a good sign.

Casey Margenau, Casey Margenau Fine Homes & Estates: “We are seeing multiple contracts. Properties under a million dollars are selling like nothing is going on. People who have to move will move, and quickly. But if there is not a need, people aren’t going out and looking at things. One thing, though, you can’t use the market as an excuse not to work, because you will get no business and it will be hard to get restarted once you get back to work.”

Debbie McGuire, Compass: “I think there will be a surge in homes for sale and in purchases. Downsizers may finally make that move. Move-up buyers will realize their space is way too small and will be enticed by the interest rates to make a change. The need for two office spaces will become more in demand. There will be more vacant houses for sale as sellers move before putting their house on the market to minimize contamination. There will be new ways to show houses; the purchase process from start to finish online could become a reality. The agent’s role as a consultant, problem-solver and expertise in technological solutions will be ever more important.”

Dee Murphy, Long & Foster: “The market was so robust going into March. I expect a lot of pent-up demand for homes once we get through this. In the meantime, it is ‘virtual’ tours and keeping our clients safe.”

Lori Shafran, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “I am optimistic. Unlike the 2008 housing-market crash and recession, the instability we are experiencing now is caused by something external to the economy. There are key differences in our current real-estate market, such as the low inventory of houses for sale, low interest rates for mortgages and homeowners with more equity in their homes that are positive factors. People will always need a place to live and, in today’s uncertain times, the security and stability of home-ownership is more important than ever.”

David Howell, McEnearney Associates: “In the two weeks since the region’s real estate market first began to feel the impact of the pandemic, new contract activity has declined about 30 percent compared to the same time last year. That might seem a little discouraging. But the reality is that there have been almost 3,000 homes go under contract in that time. That means that there are serious buyers and sellers who are still very much engaged in the market, and that the consuming public and Realtors are finding ways to do business in a more ‘virtual’ manner. There is still a lot of business going on.”

Carol Ellickson, Sotheby’s International Realty: “People are looking online as they have the time now. Families are feeling that they may need a larger home, or a home where there is yard and plenty of fresh air to breathe. I have buyers coming from California and New Mexico. We are optimistically looking at May/June for their arrival to see homes in person. If your home is on the market, please keep it there or it won’t be seen. We don’t really know what exactly is going to happen, but the buying and selling of real estate will still be very important to our economy and the health and welfare of our country.”

Donna Moseley, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty: “The information we’ve seen and reviewed points to a lack of inventory at all levels. So there is pent-up demand. Interest rates will need to remain low to stimulate the real-estate market and the momentum it gives to the U.S. economy. Once we are beyond the current virus outbreak, we can all adjust to a new environment. We will definitely have change, but we will all be on a trajectory to adapt and thrive.”

Mike Highman, Acquest Realty: “After any political/economic downturns, we always measure our recovery phases in fiscal quarters by looking at economic data changes; i.e. consumer spending, manufacturing output, market investment, employment, etc.. With these hard data variables we get a pretty good prediction what is ahead. Unfortunately, the only hard data we are getting with COVID-19 is the upsetting news about loss of life. Most of our economic data has drastically gone down or is at a standstill. Though real estate showings locally are being scaled back, there are some contracts being presented at higher than listing price. A glimpse of sunshine.”

Natalie Roy, Keller Williams: “We are obviously in uncharted territory; the ‘new normal’ now includes donning masks, gloves and booties, adhering to social distancing guidelines and emphasizing virtual tours and services. There is no sugarcoating it, the current situation is a challenge. Still people need to move and interest rates are low. The ray of sunshine: Arlington remains a remarkably active market despite the restrictions.”

Tracy Williams, TTR Sotheby’s International: “Amid this unforeseen economic slowdown and global uncertainly, the pace of sales will continue to slow. However, I believe that tightened inventory, coupled with historically low interest rates, will help stabilize prices. That is good news for those selling their homes, and also for buyers worried about artificially inflated housing prices.”

(1) comment

alicegray

The fast-spreading Covid-19 has created an enormous impact on real estate market. The sellers want to sell house quickly, but feel scare to let someone into their homes. The buyers also in the same situation. In another view, stocks have fallen; entire industries are putting themselves on pause. All that may make it seem like an odd moment to consider buying a house. The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted the housing market. But with rates low and sellers anxious, home buyers could find good chance to own a good house.

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