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Coronavirus has upended the housing market. Is now the time to buy or sell a home?

July 14, 2020


The real estate market in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has flourished while home sales in Charlotte, North Carolina, dropped off dramatically in the midst of a global pandemic.

What does that say about COVID-19’s impact on the industry — and is it still safe to list or buy?

Listing numbers and overall interest during the first few months of the year undoubtedly fell, but individual markets and sales prices suggest it wasn’t all bad.

For those looking to brave the volatile market, realtors and financial experts caution both parties should be prepared to show flexibility when it comes to open houses, using online tools and getting together financing.


According to a flash survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors in early May, 42% of buyers and 51% of sellers said they would delay the process because of the coronavirus.

About 73% of sellers also reported a “decline in buyer interest” — 30% of whom said it it had fallen by more than half.

But sellers by and large aren’t reducing their prices to try to attract buyers, the report states.

Still, the number of for-sale listings reflects both parties’ skittishness: CNBC reported total listings were down 19% annually while new listings had fallen 39% for the week ending May 2.

In Charlotte, home sales fell by 21% in April — the largest drop since June 2009, The Charlotte Observer reported, citing data collected by the Canopy Realtor Association.

The statewide stay-at-home order and other social distancing guidelines were partially to blame, though the median sales price was up from last year around the same time, even as inventory fell, according to the Observer.

But it wasn’t all bad

Single-family home sales in Myrtle Beach climbed more than 3% in the first few months of the year, the Myrtle Beach Sun News reported, citing the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors. Sales prices also rose 3.6%.

“I’ve probably talked to five or six buyers looking for steals, thinking people are going to panic and drop their price because of the coronavirus, but that just hasn’t happened,” Bradley Bennett, owner and broker in charge of Oceanfront Guru Real Estate in Myrtle Beach, told the newspaper. “It has really been business as usual.”

The same was true near Boise, where the Idaho Statesman reported home prices in Ada and Canyon counties hit a record high for the year.

A lot of sellers have decided to delay listing, but the Statesman reported buyer demand hasn’t suffered.


Financial services company Bankrate and the personal finance website Kipling have some pointers for potential home buyers or sellers.

First and foremost: practice safety when it comes to in-person visits and get used to doing things digitally.

According to Bankrate, sellers should have their real estate agents open all the doors and cabinets in a home so potential buyers don’t have to touch anything. The number of guests should also be limited and social distancing should always be practiced.

“If you tour a house in person, make sure to wear protective gear, such as a face mask and gloves,” Kipling says.

For those unable or unwilling to risk their health for an in-person showing, sellers and buyers need to adjust to online tools, Bankrate writes.

Virtual tours and video conferencing are a must, but it’s even more important the house shows well online.

Professional photos, staging and videos — such as a 3-D tour or drone footage — that accompany a listing will “set it apart” from others online, according to Kipling.

Bankrate reports lending standards have tightened during the coronavirus pandemic and “buyers might need to do more research to find a lender who will give them a mortgage.”

In the meantime, Kiplinger says sellers shouldn’t overprice their homes.

“Many buyers are clamping down on their finances, and a lot of shoppers are less willing to offer above list price for homes,” the media outlet reported. “A lot of buyers are also wary of stretching their budgets, because the coronavirus may put a dent in home price gains this year.”

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