We are into the third month of our shelter-in-place (SIP) order that started on March 17.
I have lived in San Francisco for the majority of my life and this is the worst I have seen and felt about the City I call my home. The moral fabric of our society feels missing and certainly not how I was taught and raised. But enough venting. This column is about real estate and on that front I do have some good news!
When the SIP started, sellers withdrew their listings from the market in droves, buyers had to shelter-in-place and real estate activity nosedived. Our market came to a standstill. However, on March 28, real estate was deemed to be an essential service and can operate under strict COVID-19 guidelines.
As agents struggle to come up with and follow new safety procedures, and with SIP loosening up, sales started to happen again. I will never again underestimate the determination of good real estate agents to get deals done! The selling process is much more complicated as showings are more difficult, relying on appointments only with a maximum of three people allowed in the property at any time and no occupants present. The loan process was delayed because so many are working from home. But somehow persistence and determination won at the end of the day.
At this writing, near the end of June, we are on pace to close 16 single-family homes in the Richmond and 20 in the Sunset. We normally average 18 sales per month in the Richmond and 37 in the Sunset during these months. Currently there are 15 homes in escrow in the Richmond and 22 in the Sunset. So, activity is picking up. As an encouraging sign, there are 34 and 30 homes on the market in Richmond and Sunset, respectively, at the moment. We will see in the next 30 days if there is enough demand to absorb these listings.
In terms of final selling prices, I am seeing prices falling back in line with pre-pandemic days. The fact that the interest rates have decreased has helped. Additionally, most buyers who can afford today’s prices generally still have jobs. The stock market has also rebounded quite nicely from the lows, and some buyers are cashing out and putting the gains into real estate.
This is feeling like our spring selling season is being pushed into the summer when it normally is more quiet. With people doing less traveling this summer, my guess is that we will see more activity resulting in more sales.
What are the guidelines for marketing a property during our COVID times and what can we do to get the highest possible price for our property?
The rules are constantly changing, but at the writing of this article, no open houses are allowed and showings are by appointments only. Anyone entering the property must sign a declaration that they believe that they are coronavirus-free and have not been in contact with anyone who had the coronavirus within the last 14 days. They must also exercise caution with respect to touching any surfaces in the home and let the broker know in the event that their health condition changes in the days after the appointment. And, as mentioned earlier, no more than three people – normally one agent and two other parties from the same household – can be inside a property at any given time by appointment. Agents have been scheduling appointments in properties at 15-minute intervals.
Also, showings are done virtually first, meaning buyers need to look at the photos and videos online and review the disclosures first. If still interested, they can then schedule a showing to minimize contacts. Thus, staging and how the property is presented online becomes much more important. Obtaining a loan is more time consuming as scheduling appraisals and inspections can take a little longer. Some lenders are doing drive-by appraisals to cut down on time and potential exposure to the virus. Most escrow officers are working from home, so signing the final paperwork can be tricky. It is a combination of signing in the escrow office, mobile notaries to your home, or in some cases, electronic notaries.
Buying and selling a home is stressful, especially with all that is going on in today’s world. And that’s when good advice is necessary from a professional in helping to make that buying and selling decision as easy and painless as possible.
The virus is still out there, despite our economy and businesses opening up, so wear your masks, practice social distancing and stay safe out there!
John M. Lee is a broker at Compass specializing in the Richmond and Sunset districts. For real estate questions, call him at (415) 465-0505 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.