It’s no doubt it has been a tough couple of weeks. I’m hoping this soothing photo can help.
Our daily lives have been impacted and disrupted, and these times are certainly unnerving. But as history has proved to us, we will bounce back. We made it through many crises before and we will make it through this one.
How is the Coronavirus affecting the Thurston County, WA real estate market?
Interest Rates. If there is a silver lining with this crisis, it is interest rates. With the Federal Reserve’s slashing of costs to borrow, homebuyers are poised to benefit from lower interest rates. Currently, a 30-year mortgage rate is 3.35% with 0.7 in fees/points, and analysts expect this rate to go lower. (Source: www.freddiemac.com/pmms)
The rates most likely will go lower because lenders are overloaded with refinances right now. In order to slow that pace down, they are keeping rates a little higher. Once the refi market slows down, then lenders can lower the rates, and this is why analysts expect lower rates in the future.
Strong job growth and low unemployment. February job growth numbers beat expectations and unemployment is currently at a 50-year low, however, the full impact of the virus has yet to be seen. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Buyers are not slowing down. Buyers are still looking for homes. Their confidence remains solid in purchasing and are waiting for that next listing to come up. They are confident in their employment and are happy to take advantage of low interest rates.
Sellers are still motivated to sell. Most sellers are not waiting or holding back from listing their homes for sale. The potential hesitation we are seeing is with military sellers whose relocation orders may have been postponed for at least 60 days but most sellers are looking forward to taking advantage of this strong seller’s market.
How is COVID-19 affecting how real estate business is conducted?
Open houses. Our NWMLS has temporarily disabled the public and broker open house feature in our system. Until at least March 31st, brokers will not be able to input open house information, and this information will not be available for display on public websites.
On March 15th, Washington State’s Governor Inslee signed an emergency declaration, which included temporarily capping all public gatherings at 50 people. In King County, WA, they have prohibited gatherings with fewer than 50 people.
Showings. Brokers are taking extra precautions when showing homes to buyers including:
- Checking on the health status of buyers, brokers, and sellers.
- Driving separately and not carpooling to see homes.
- Using Facetime for virtual buyer showings.
- Having hand sanitizer available.
- Wearing shoe covers and gloves.
Special note from Inspectors. We are hearing that some inspectors do not want the buyers in attendance. This is to limit the number of people and interactions. Buyer-brokers will need to check in with their home inspectors.
For sellers, brokers are advising their sellers to:
- Have shoe covers and gloves available for buyers to wear.
- Wipe down all surfaces, doorknobs, etc. after all showings.
- Listing brokers – do a virtual walk-thru video to reduce in-person showings.
Possible delayed closings. With the uncertainty of more and more closures in Thurston County, the next question is if the county recording office can stay open and/or if they will be fully staffed. Many escrow companies have physically delivered transaction files to the recording office. Now, these escrow companies are working to e-record but the system isn’t perfect.
We are urging lenders to electronically send closing documents to escrow companies, too, so that all can work from home if there is a mandated work-from-home order.
We are preparing our clients for a potential delay in recording, and to have alternate plans in place. So far, we have not seen any closing delays due to the recording office being closed or understaffed.
Overall, we are looking for ways to reduce in-person interactions to limit and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As professional problem-solvers, I and my REALTOR® colleagues are constantly changing and adapting to meet the needs of our clients during this pandemic. As always, we are using some common sense, keeping facts in mind over fiction, and proactively doing our part to keep everyone safe and healthy.
As Tom Hanks recently tweeted, “Remember, despite all the current events, there is no crying in baseball.”