With virtual showings and parking lot closings, local real estate professionals have found inventive ways to continue doing business in the current environment. We spoke with Kathy Forrester, Executive Vice President Marketing & Strategic Initiatives at Kinlin Grover, about the impact of COVID-19 on the regional market.
How has COVID 19 impacted the region’s real estate market?
In the initial days of the health crisis, most real estate companies, including Kinlin Grover Real Estate, out of an abundance of caution, began exercising strict safety precautions in accordance with the CDC guidelines. Offices were closed to the public, and gatherings of agents, buyers and sellers were restricted to include only the key decision makers. On March 24, when Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, real estate was not included on the list of essential businesses; however, that quickly changed. One week later, on March 31, real estate was deemed an essential business along with most of the supporting businesses necessary to conduct real estate transactions. These included settlement services, legal services, and inspection services, such as smoke inspections, septic inspections, etc. With these support businesses still functioning, real estate transactions were able to continue without the threat of interruption. With over 2,600 professionally licensed members of the Cape Cod Islands Association of Realtors (CCIAOR), this was viewed as very good news. And, because real estate is so closely connected to our local economy, many people in various industries were also able to continue working.
Although real estate was deemed an essential business in late March, most brokerages have yet to fully re-open their offices to the general public. Rather, most have made their offices available to agents and clients on a limited-use basis. Small client meetings and use of office equipment for conducting real estate activities still continues. Instead of offices opening to the general public and business being conducted as usual, real estate agents have quickly adapted to the new normal and have learned to go about their regular activities but just in different ways. "Virtual real estate," use of personal protection equipment, such as masks, gloves, booties, and social distancing have become expected parts of the new work landscape for licensed realtors. If anything can be done virtually, it is being done that way. Virtual home showings, virtual meetings, parking lot closings, etc. are all additional parts of most active agents' new work lifestyle.
Do you think your company’s way of doing business will be affected when things return to normal?
While the world awaits for a virus vaccine, we expect that this new way of doing real estate business is here for the foreseeable future. A heightened level of safety precautions have certainly been put in place and will likely be the new normal for an extended period of time. This includes mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing.
What should buyers/sellers keep in mind during this time?
Real estate is still happening! In fact, according to the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, overall real estate sales volume was up 6 percent in March 2020 over March 2019. In the county, 582 deeds were recorded, totaling $314.5 million. There’s a lot of good news to share:
- Driven by buyer demand, the real estate market was robust prior to the pandemic and leading industry and economic authorities predict it will be again.
- Website analytics for national search sites and our own website indicate buyers are still actively looking for homes.
- Mortgage interest rates remain at historic lows, and according to Freddie Mac, are expected to remain low and could drop as low as 2.9 percent in 2021.
- Sellers are learning that real estate transactions can still happen.
- Listings are coming online.
- Agents have quickly adapted to new ways of conducting real estate activities.
- Offices will soon be reopening with new safety requirements for masks and social distancing.
- Nationally, pending sales are up 6.2 percent over last year.
- Interest rates reached an all time low this week, falling to 3.23 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan in the week ending April 30.
- Fannie Mae predicts home prices will grow 2.5 percent between 2019 and 2021.
- Despite the current downturn, it is largely believed by my leading industry experts that the housing market will rebound and help lead the economic recovery.
Executive Vice President Marketing & Strategic Initiatives
Kinlin Grover Real Estate