Sellers Adopt Showing Procedures to Minimize Coronavirus Spread
March 12, 2020
Some home sellers are making changes to how their listing is viewed by prospective buyers amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak.
About a quarter of real estate professionals surveyed by the National Association of REALTORS® said their sellers are taking extra precautions, including stopping open houses, requiring buyers to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer, or asking buyers to remove shoes and wear footies.
The survey examines the impact of the coronavirus on the real estate industry so far. Forty-four percent of real estate pros surveyed in the state of Washington and 34% in California reported changes to home tours. The two states currently have the highest number of reported cases of coronavirus in the U.S.
“We are seeing a lot more hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes at open houses,” Wes Jones, managing broker with Keller Williams in Bellevue, Wash., a Seattle suburb, told realtor.com®. “We also make sure to wipe down the front door handle a number of times throughout the open house. It also appears that not shaking hands at all is quickly becoming acceptable.”
Cara Ameer, a real estate professional in California, also said she’s taking extra precautions. “I now carry a canister of disinfecting wipes in my car so I can wipe my hands and the steering wheel after being in and out of houses,” she told realtor.com®. “I have also wiped down lock boxes, light switches, and doorknobs on my listings, and encourage customers to do the same. While you don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, it is better to err on the side of caution rather than worry about exposure. You can never be too careful.”
The coronavirus is having a mixed impact on the housing market. It’s decreasing buyer traffic somewhat—although in still relatively low numbers—but it’s also not deterring some home buyers and sellers from taking advantage of the lowest mortgage rates in history, shows NAR’s survey, which is based on responses from more than 2,500 real estate professionals.
Sixteen percent of real estate pros say they’ve seen a reduction in buyer interest in their market since the onset of the coronavirus in the U.S. In California, 21% of members reported a decrease in buyer interest, and 19% of members said the same in Washington.
“Given that a home transaction is a major commitment, the uncertainties on how the economy will play out and the spread of the virus itself are barriers to home buying and selling,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The stock market crash is no doubt raising economic anxieties, while the coronavirus brings fear of contact with strangers. At the same time, the dramatic fall in interest rates may induce some potential buyers to take advantage of the better affordability conditions. It is too early to assess the likely impact as to whether lower interest rates can overcome the economic and health anxieties.”
At least in the short term, Yun predicts home sales to be down about 10% compared to what they could have been due to the spread of the coronavirus.
One movement that could lessen its impact, however, is the dip in mortgage rates and its effect on buyers to move ahead with a purchase. More than one-third of members said that their clients are excited by the lower mortgage rates.
Real estate pros credit the lower rates for prompting the majority of home sellers to not make a change in the listing of their home, the survey shows. They want to take advantage of the lower rates on the buying side.
In some areas, the number of home sellers is rising. In California, 12% of members said the number of sellers is increasing because of the desire to take advantage of lower interest rates upon moving, according to NAR’s survey. Nine percent of real estate pros nationwide also reported a higher number of homeowners wanting to sell for this reason. Only 3% of sellers nationwide have decided to remove their home from the market and refinance into a lower mortgage rate so they can remain in their home.
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