Key Highlights

  • Spring sales season may begin this summer
  • Less than half of typical March sales figures have gone into contract

Looking outside, if you even go outside these days, you would know it’s springtime. Birds are singing, trees are budding new leaves and winter dormant plants are awakening.

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Looking at property listings and home sales numbers, you would never know it’s springtime. According to the latest research by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) published March 19, 48% of Realtors reported that homebuyer interest has decreased due to the coronavirus spread.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist with NAR, said, “The decline in confidence related to the direction of the economy coupled with the unprecedented measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19…are naturally bringing an abundance of caution among buyers and sellers. With fewer listings in what’s already a housing shortage environment, home prices are likely to hold steady. The temporary softening of the real estate market will likely be followed by a strong rebound once the economic ‘quarantine’ is lifted…”

UrbanDigs, a website that offers real estate data and commentary, presented data that supports NAR’s latest report and Yun’s latest comments. Less than half the number of listed properties went into contract in March compared to prior March sales action.

Richard Grossman, president of Halstead, said, “This year we’ll continue with the spring selling season but it will shift to summer…when things get back to normal there will be pent-up demand…interest rates are low and if you’re quarantined, you’re going to be saying ‘I want a new place to live if this happens again.’”

Complicating the buying process is the closure of government recording offices around the country. No government recording offices equals no title searches and no deed filings though some state are allowing those vital pieces of the buying and refinancing processes to be done remotely.

Agents and brokers are compensating in-person showings and discussions during COVID-19 quarantines with video property tours with Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and 3-D tech such as Matterport plus interactive tours via videoconferencing sites such as Zoom. Time will tell whether or not such virtual tours actually result in closings.

Jason Haber, an associate broker with Warburg Realty, is optimistic about such tools leading to sales. “You might think the upheaval would cause everyone to stand down,” he said. “But COVID-19 is a Rorschach. The way you view the virus you project out to the real estate market.”

Haber added, “I think there’s a new market: the online market, the only one we have now. We want to be in that marketplace. You have the most number of eyes looking at a property and you want that property to be part of the conversation.”

Thanks to The New York Times and National Association of REALTORS®