First, and foremost, each and every one of us on The Wheaton Team hopes that you, and your loved ones, are safe from the threat of COVID-19. This pandemic has turned our worlds upside down and challenged us in ways we never expected. But even in times of uncertainty we can find good news and, when we set the fear aside, the reality of our circumstances is better than it appears.
We aren’t expert economists so we can’t speak to the roller coaster ride of the stock market, interest rates or unemployment news. But what we can address is the housing market in El Paso County and how we, and other industry professionals, are handling the challenges and discuss what we see happening and how it will affect our market in the upcoming months.
Inventory of Available Homes:
Every year, March begins our busiest season. Coming out of the holidays and the cold winter Buyers and Sellers are ready to think about their Spring moves. Demand and prices go up and, as has been true for the past two years, we are starting another peak season with a shortage of homes to sell—particularly in prices under $400,000. The demand for luxury homes may slow due to portfolios declining and volatility in investments. Our action as Realtors is to sharpen our skills for multiple-offer situations, counsel our Buyers and Sellers to get out in the market early and to be aware of new construction options when resale homes are not available. In the luxury market, pricing appropriately and being patient for the right Buyer will be key.
Closing of Important Offices:
The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department offices and El Paso County Clerk and Recorder offices have closed temporarily. The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department is critical to the speed of new construction homes being built and the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder office is needed to record deeds as transactions close. Regarding the recording of deeds, Title companies who close the transaction are aware that a longer “gap period” coverage is needed to protect the new homeowners. The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department has figured out how to do some inspections by video and are still able to send inspectors safely into the field with limited exposure to COVID-19 for others.
Restricted Home Showings:
Sellers are nervous about possible infected Buyers being in their homes, and Buyers are nervous about being in homes during open houses or showings when many people might be in the home with them at the same time. So, Realtors are responding by preparing Buyers and Sellers for showings in new ways. Our goal is to keep our clients safe and that requires preventative measures and common-sense practices to stay healthy and limit exposure. In some instances, agents may do “virtual showings” or “virtual open houses” to restrict access to a property.
Closing in a Safe Way:
Typically, Buyers and Sellers meet at the closing table together in a room with a Closer at the Title Company. Everyone signs their documents, shake hands and exchange keys. Title companies have stepped up their game to limit exposure to the other parties. Buyers and Sellers may sign their documents in a different room or, in some cases, in their car outside the building. Closers may conduct the closing via Skype or other method. There are still documents which require notarized signatures, but the ones that don’t can be done through DocuSign or other programs. If your agent doesn’t accompany you in person to the closing it can be done via Skype or Zoom or other online system.
The Good News:
We still have Buyers and Sellers calling us every day. This is still our busy season and, if demand gets pent up for a month or two, the busy season will continue through the summer and maybe even fall months. We are getting good at video communication, alternative systems and gaining better efficiency relying on newer, more mobile methods. Home values will continue to stay strong. Coming out of this, there will be a new group of Buyers able to work from home. Our normal day-to-day lives will no doubt change but our desire for, and ability to get, new homes will increase.
Again, our primary concern is for your health and safety. Please know we are here for you, whatever way we can help. As professionals it is our responsibility to keep on top of the situation. As the leading brand in all of real estate, RE/MAX has the best communication and tools available at our disposal. We are in contact with the Colorado Association of Realtors legal advice team and we are staying informed. You are in good hands and, together, we will see a stronger and wiser real estate industry.
Tanya Bingham, Licensed Assistant