Monday, April 13, 2020 / by Ken Couture
Realtors, sellers and buyers are getting creative to keep the rising real estate market afloat during the time of COVID-19.
In an area where the housing market has boomed for years, local experts don’t see it slowing down anytime soon, despite the circumstances.
All parties have to adjust to changes in the normal process, particularly when it comes to seeing a home in person.
Technology is helping to overcome some barriers. This includes streaming video, providing 3-D tours and creating marketing videos.
“It allows whoever is watching to make requests to examine parts of the house more closely, or about something they might have a specific question (about),” he explained. “There are brokers in the area who are streaming live open houses and answering specific questions.”
For the listing agent, the challenge is to come up with the proper presentation for the house. At this time, you can’t do that with amateur photos uploaded to the Multiple Listing System (MLS).
“This is the time that a home really needs to stand out and shine with video, professional photography and descriptive ad copy to help it stand out.”
He points out that buyers are looking at multiple homes, not just one.
“Our spring market hit in January this year”.
He expects the market to kick back into gear as soon as the stay at home orders are lifted.
There is still a lot of demand to buy a home, and he says offers are being made and new listings are coming online.
“There is usually a time span between 30 to 50 days from offer to closing,” he said. “We will see in the coming month or two the actual effect that our restrictions have had on the real estate market.”
He describes the possibility of the changes pushing the area from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market as a “definite maybe.”
“We use months of supply to determine whether we are in a buyer’s market or seller’s market,” he explained.
In March 2019, Henderson County had 4.3 months of supply. In March of this year, the supply was at 4.2 months, showing increasing demand.
“We usually consider six months’ supply of home a balanced market,” he said. “Less than six months’ supply is a seller’s market; more than six months is a buyer’s market.
“In the end, our current low inventory should help moderate the market.”
There are still a lot of people moving to the area, so there is still demand, he said.
“That would suggest that home prices overall should remain stable, he explained.
“Median price in March was up 5.5% in Henderson County, 6% in Buncombe County. I think we will see homes on the market for a little longer and the rate of increase in values might fall a bit. I don’t see home prices falling overall,” he said. “However, there might be sellers who must sell quickly and their price might reflect that.”
Office policy varies from firm to firm regarding seeing homes before going under contract, and it varies from county to county, he explained.
Sellers need to have conversations with their broker about having people in their home during the COVID-19 crisis, he recommends.
For their own safety, he recommends sellers wipe down commonly touched surfaces with disinfectant cleaner after potential buyers leave.
Buyers are recommended to be equipped with gloves and masks, and perhaps even shoe coverings. They should change gloves when exiting a home to avoid cross contamination.
He says it is almost better for the agent to go in, stream video of the house and the buyer decide whether or not they would consider writing an offer. If so, tour the house with mask and gloves.
“The fewer people in the home the better,” he said.
Here are some steps to take before going to see a home, according to the Board of Realtors:
1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. You want to know how much home you can afford and put yourself in a better position to negotiate. So talk to a mortgage lender.
2. Make contact with a local Realtor so they can get to know your needs and wants in a home. This will limit the number of homes you see, saving you time and limiting your possible exposure.
3. Find a Realtor who is familiar with tech and knows how to use it. Using a smartphone to prepare a video tour should be something your broker can do. Most contracts and forms can be signed using a digital signature from across town or across an ocean.
4. You might drive up to a home, wait in your car while your Realtor goes into the house to stream video to you via Facebook Messenger or FaceTime.
5. It is not wise to let a prospective buyer in the home unsupervised. Doing so should be a security concern for the homeowner.
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