Real Talk: Navigating the real estate market during the COVID-19 pandemic

Real Talk: Navigating the real estate market during the COVID-19 pandemic
6 Potomac Court, located in the southeast quadrant of Old Town. (Courtesy Photo)

By Diann Carlson

Stay at home. Good advice to us all, but what if you want to move?

How is our local market being impacted? The listing of homes for sale and the surge of buyers often in competition for them has been the norm for the past several spring markets. What about spring 2020?

The lack of inventory of available homes has given sellers the advantage in negotiations and left some buyers frustrated in often multiple attempts to purchase. Is that changing?

The daily roster of new listings is slower, but inventory continues to be introduced onto the market. Pent-up demand for housing battles against a reduced balance in a buyer’s 401-K savings plan. Which will win?

Still present is the seller’s preference to accept a purchase offer without a buyer’s home-sale contingency. Sellers have had the luxury of offers from unencumbered buyers for many seasons. Could this shift in the coming months?

Sellers are diligently disinfecting their properties – doorknobs, closet handles, lock boxes and keys – and making arrangements for private showings to potential buyers, rather than holding their homes open to the public. In D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has prohibited open houses.

Many buyers, still poised to purchase, remain persistent as they wait for that one special home to become available. Some neighborhoods are still achieving multiple offers on certain properties. Attractive interest rates are in a buyer’s favor.

What kind of adaptations are realtors making in this new era? We are conducting appointments via FaceTime with sellers ready to list. We are conducting FaceTime home tours. We are negotiating contracts via Zoom. The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors has provided a unique contract document; “COVID-19 Addendum,” drafted specially for this new era, which protects both buyers and sellers alike in this climate.

Realtors are strongly keying into the evolving environment. We are taking special precautions for the health and safety of our buyers and sellers. Following the CDC guidelines for social distancing, we seek new ways to serve daily.

In addition, real estate offices and related services are minimizing risk by having the minimum number of persons present.

Mortgage financing has been deemed an essential service, and property closings occur as necessary, dependent upon availability of a title company’s scheduling and court house’s opening hours. Most lenders are able to work from home and still conduct their business on time.

Real estate markets will always come and go, and despite current restrictions, most long-time practitioners believe that Alexandria will weather this storm well. When this crisis is in the rearview mirror, sellers ready to list and buyers ready to buy will again surge into the market.

Potential sellers: Now’s the time to paint, declutter and prepare your property for the keen eyes and high expectations of buyers entering the market.

Prospective buyers: Find a realtor now, get in touch with a local mortgage lender and obtain a letter of pre-approval. You’re going to need it.

Fellow realtors: Practice patience. This crisis will not last forever. Now is the time to guide buyers and sellers through these changing times. Your services are needed now more than ever.

The writer is an associate broker with Weichert Old Town on Pitt Street.

Correction: In the print version of this article, a photo caption incorrectly stated that 6 Potomac Court was located in the southwest quadrant of Old Town, when it is actually located in the southeast quadrant. The Times regrets the error.