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Property Views: Selling real estate during a pandemic

Sudore

Before the COVID-19 crisis, all signs pointed to 2020’s real estate market being one for the record books, with sales volume and asking prices surpassing the highs of 2017’s record-setting sales. To mirror that stat, my team had a record number of closings in March, and those were homes that went under contract in February and early in March.

Things were looking great.

But then we saw the virus cases grow, and there were a couple of weeks of uncertainty as to what was happening and what was to come. We kept working but also made sure to get all of our coming listings photographed, staged when needed and digitally mapped with 3D video for virtual walk-throughs.

When the official “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order was instituted, everything stopped. Real estate offices were closed, brokers weren’t allowed to work and open houses were banned. I advised my sellers to take their homes off the market, so they wouldn’t accumulate days while buyers couldn’t see them.

As soon as real estate was added as an essential service, we were able to conduct limited business, and things started to look up again. In fact, in the last seven days, Coldwell Banker Bain brokers here in the area have added almost 200 new listings, written up 146 more transactions and closed 132 sales. And the average sales prices are up an amazing 15 percent in the region year to date.

What to know now

In the greater Seattle area, there’s 5.8 months of inventory — Seattle’s absorption rate — as of this writing. Real estate analysts call this a neutral market, which is when there’s a home inventory of 4-6 months. In our micro-neighborhoods, it’s significantly less, with an inventory of 3.6 months on market, which is technically a seller’s market.

The data tells us houses on the market are selling. As properties were added back to the multiple listing service, buyers wanted to see them — and buy. My team brought our listings back on the market in mid-April, and in a short time, all those active listings were under contract. When talking with these buyers, they say they are cooped up in the rental or small apartment and want to get their family comfortable if this stay at home order is issued again later this year.

Selling and buying in the new normal

After we were able to start conducting limited business, the people we depend on for other services — our photographers, stagers, the 3D videographers — were gradually allowed back. We’re gearing up with all of those resources with homes coming on the market.

We’ve seen a lot of buyer interest and activity. These buyers may realize they need more room to comfortably shelter at home, or they find their dream home searching online and move quickly to secure it. That has translated into several full-price offers on turnkey homes.

For buyers who don’t want to pay full price, there are opportunities to find the diamonds in the rough that need polishing to become your dream scenario. It may be a house with good bones that’s not in your first-choice neighborhood or one that needs work in the area of your choice. Having an experienced broker working for you will help you find those hidden treasures easier and faster.

We are booking appointments to show homes on the market, though we do have to abide by new restrictions. All showings must be booked in advance, and only two people are allowed on the property at a time; that may be a buyer and broker, or the broker may stay on the sidewalk while two buyers tour the home. There may be added paperwork that needs to be signed to allow these visits. It’s a little more complicated, but it’s working.

What’s to come

What could have been a record-setting spring market was interrupted. There are indications that the volume of business will simply be delayed until summer. As restrictions are lifted, we may see that the usual volume of listings, showings and transactions come roaring back in June, July and August, when health officials say cases of the virus may wane.

If you’re thinking of selling, get your house in order (literally) and contact an experienced broker so that you can take advantage of the market taking off again. Give your broker time to get the best photos taken, take staging advice and have the 3D virtual showings shot and ready to go. Please contact me if you would like to see examples of what a 3D showing looks like.

On the buying side, act sooner rather than later — you may find exactly what you want quickly. Have your cash on hand and get your financing set up, especially since interest rates are at historic lows. Working with an experienced broker will boost your chances that you see a home that suits your needs as soon as it’s listed or will know about one that’s coming soon through an established network of other brokers.

It’s impossible to predict the future, of course. We’re learning that now. Scientists and health experts are currently forecasting the virus could spread more easily this fall and winter than during the warmer months. If that’s true, we will likely see a slowdown in the real estate market at that time.

I know many people have questions about what’s happening now and what to expect.

To that end, I’m scheduling 15- to 20-minute Zoom sessions online with clients, prospective buyers or sellers, or anyone interested in setting the record straight. We’ll discuss what’s happening on the ground, in real-time in real estate right now. Things are changing hour by hour, day by day.

When I want to know all things medical, I call my sister or neighbor — because both are physicians. When they want to know all things real estate, they call me. Please feel free to do the same as we navigate through these uncharted waters.

I’ve facilitated hundreds of real estate transactions — and not in the height of the market, but specifically during the last housing crisis. I know exactly what it’s like working through a transaction in uncertain and incredibly scary times. Give me a call on my cell at 206-799-2244, or email me at chris@kingcountyestates.com.

I’m happy to schedule a video Zoom conference or just a simple phone call, whatever you’re comfortable with. Sometimes it’s nice to just talk it out, no pressure.

From all of us at King County Estates, we want to thank our devoted clients, families and community for the tremendous support during this time. Stay safe, stay healthy and let’s stay together and work through this.

Chris Sudore is a Madison Park resident and managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain|Global Luxury. He can be reached at Chris@KingCountyEstates.com.
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