The coronavirus scare may have caused sales to slow down in the real estate game, but both sellers and buyers have pulled away from the housing market at the same pace. Jeff Tucker, a Zillow economist, stated that the demand for homes stayed high even as the sellers pulled their homes off of the market. Additionally, prices have remained high during this uncertain time.
According to data collected from Zillow, only 50 percent of new house listings were posted on the app as of the last week of March in San Francisco and throughout the East Bay. In the San Jose metro area, new listings dropped by 34 percent when compared to March of 2019. According to Tucker, these drops were among the largest in the country, even though the area had low inventory at the start of the pandemic.
Zillow did confirm that the sale of single-family dwellings grew by 5.3 percent in March, when compared year-by-year, in Contra Costa County. However, Alameda suffered an 18 percent loss in sales, while Santa Clara saw a 9.9 percent loss. In San Mateo, sales dropped by 8.3 percent.
The median price for homes hit $668,300 in Contra Costa County and $928,000 in Alameda. In San Mateo, the median price for a house is $1.3 million, while the median for a home in San Francisco is $1.6 million. Santa Clara County has the highest median average of $1.25 million. There was no data available for Marin or Napa counties.
According to Brothers by Homes, some Bay Area real estate agents working in the Bay Area started the year out strong but soon took a hit when the pandemic struck. Because of strict shelter in place orders, restrictions on real estate transactions in the last couple of weeks of March limited what agents could do. Agents were not permitted to show houses to individuals or hold open houses until the very beginning of April. Government workers who had to adjust to the newer work-at-home routines limited the county recording services, as well.
Real estate agents stated that they were working in an uncertain and uneasy business environment. Despite the restrictions placed on their companies, some agents still personally showed homes to potential clients. Others limited visits to video conferencing calls, phone calls, and text messages.
Sandy Jamison works for a real estate company in San Jose, known as Tuscana Properties. She stated that many of the homes in Santa Clara County are staying on the market longer because of the pandemic, while economic impacts have caused some deals to fall through. But Jamison feels that the demand for new homes is still strong and that potential buyers are still on the lookout for the best deals. She is planning to list four or five homes online for auction, hoping that an online sale will pique the interest of her current and new customers.
Jamison also stated that there are still more buyers looking for homes than there are sellers, a fact that hasn’t changed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Sunil Sethi is an agent in Fremont who has been selling homes for years. He has taken to counseling sellers on the new and often confusing procedures that have occurred because of the pandemic. For example, some contracts include new clauses that allow buyers to more easily pull out of a deal because of the virus. He stated that there is no use to go through the process when you have a seller that is concerned about the “new normal” everyone is dealing with.
Fremont homes that were listed on the market for over $2 million have not been selling, according to Sethi’s analysis of sales data. He stated that many of the buyers who are in that price range are likely already homeowners who do not want to shop while the pandemic is happening.
Matt Rubenstein, an agent for East Bay Pro in Walnut Creek, stated that a lot of agents were unsure of how to conduct business with all of the new rules and restrictions placed on agents. However, demand stayed strong for local starter homes while restrictions slowly lifted in Contra Costa County. Rubenstein noticed that most of his potential buyers showed up to look at the homes with their own gloves and masks. He made sure to keep extra gear and sanitizer on hand if buyers needed anything.
Rubenstein said that he was still able to close five deals in March and throughout April. He also delivered the keys in person. He said that the only thing different was that there were “no more hugs”. Other than that, he did his best to keep it business as usual.