Realtors discuss home-buying in a pandemic

While there has been a drop in listings, most of the homes that are selling are going for at or above the listing, according to a local expert. PHOTO BY DAN WATSON / THE SIGNAL
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There is not a single industry in the United States that does not seem to have been impacted in some way by COVID-19.

The real estate market is firmly in that group, with Realtors affected in a number of ways that came as a surprise to experts in the real estate field. 

There was a 42.8% drop in the number of single-family home listings between April 2019 and April 2020, or there was 311 in April 2019 and 178 in April 2020, according to numbers published by the Southland Regional Association. 

However, the median price, according to the SRAR, for the Santa Clarita Valley, increased by approximately 3.6%. 

Home sales within Santa Clarita had dropped by 54% when comparing April of this year against April of last year, according to Cherrie Brown, the broker-owner of NextHome Real Estate Rockstars. 

“But what was interesting to me is that the amount of homes that sold at or above list price was 70% of those sales,” said Brown. “So while the number of sales are down, we’re still seeing a lot of competition on the market.” 

Brown said this phenomenon, of a majority of sales coming in at above list price despite less homes being, is that for those who are still working during the pandemic, they’re looking at low interest rates and are eager to jump in the market. 

“We’re seeing a lot of buyers in the market who haven’t lost their jobs in Santa Clarita,” said Brown. “Unfortunately in Santa Clarita, we have a high rate of unemployment, but we do have a lot of first responders, and I think that’s what’s carrying our market; a majority of our transactions have been first responders.” 

In addition to the homes being snatched up at a slower rate but for a higher price, Brown said homes are on the market for less time. 

“The average days on the market in Santa Clarita is 22,” said Brown. “(The normal average) can vary because we’ve been in such a low inventory market for so many years; yet, you’re looking at anywhere from 35 to 45 days.” 

Specifically for her team, Brown said they’ve sold nine properties and the average day on the market for those homes was six days, when normally it’s more like 11 to 12 days.

Brown said that the combination of opportunity and boredom at home, along with a confluence of other factors, has led to these statistical shifts. 

What to expect when buying a home

Nicole Stinson, a real estate broker working in the Santa Clarita Valley, said at the beginning of pandemic Realtors were suffering because they weren’t allowed to show homes to people. 

However, after being deemed essential workers, new protocols for showing a home have been put in place, she said. 

“Luckily in Santa Clarita, the guidelines for showing property relaxed very quickly,” said Stinson. “Even though we’re restricted, we have a little bit more privileges.” 

Stinson said typically people look at the virtual walk-throughs of the homes before deciding to visit.  

Those looking to buy the home are then asked to set up an appointment with the Realtor, because open houses are no longer allowed, Stinson said. 

“They can make an appointment to see us, and they have to fill out a special disclosure saying that they understand that COVID is going on and that they’re going to wear protective masks, and gloves and not touch anything in the house,” she said. 

Additionally, the owner of the home is not allowed to be there when the showing is happening, as only two people and the realtor are allowed in the home at a time. For instance, a family of four would need to do two separate walk throughs, with two waiting outside waiting for the first two to be done.

Stinson said one of the big changes for the market, and what might make people hesitant to buy at times, is that they’re presently out of work, but will be receiving a paycheck once again soon. 

“They’re not qualified; they were qualified but until they start getting their paycheck, they really can’t close alone,” said Stinson. “So we’re seeing things put on hold, escrows take a little bit longer to close because they have to get back on qualifying.” 

However, despite the extra loopholes, and Brown believing that May will see a similar number of low house sales, Stinson says that the agents are becoming more optimistic about the market  as the days go on.

“It’s a little bit more work, but the agents are now used to it,” said Stinson. “I think it’s not as scary for people as it was when it first came out.” 

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