COVID-19 restrictions drive home sales down, but Realtors remain hopeful
FRISCO — Like for other industries, Realtors in Summit County have had to adjust to a new normal. For most of April, in-person showings were prohibited to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, a restriction that forced brokers to get creative.
Gov. Jared Polis announced one-on-one showings can begin again April 27, when the state moves into its “safer at home” initiative, provided the Summit County Public Health Department does not implement stricter rules locally. Under these new rules, Realtors can show properties by appointment while maintaining social distancing practices. Open houses, however, are still restricted.
Nationwide, the number of showings have dropped dramatically since early March. According to data from ShowingTime.com, a website that tracks real estate statistics across the country, the average number of weekly showings have dropped 42% since March 11.
Dana Cottrell, president of the Summit Association of Realtors, said the only way to get potential buyers into properties under the no-showings restriction was if the properties were under contract, which made it difficult to market and sell to buyers.
“Buying real estate is something you want to touch and feel,” she said.
Jack Wolfe, a real estate broker with LIV Sotheby’s International Realty, said his agency leaned heavily on a virtual software for showings called Matterport. The software allows buyers to go on a virtual 3D tour of homes.
“You can sit at your place in Iowa at 11 o’clock in your pajamas, and you can drive your way through my listings,” he said.
Dennis Clauer, a broker and owner of Real Estate of the Summit, also relied on 3D and virtual tours while the restrictions were in place. With the allowance of one-on-one showings, he said it’s going to be a lot easier to sell properties.
- March 20 to April 20, 2020: 88
- March 20 to April 20, 2019: 131
- Percent change: -32.8%
Total sales volume
- March 20 to April 20, 2020: $56,333,357
- March 20 to April 20, 2019: $98,761,395
- Percent change: -43.0%
Sales above $1 million
- March 20 to April 20, 2020: 16
- March 20 to April 20, 2019: 24
- Percent change: -33.3%
Source: Summit Association of Realtors
“People really like to be able to walk the grounds and see the location,” he said. “To some degree, it’s an emotional buy.”
Despite the restrictions on what Realtors are able to do, brokers have seen a pent-up demand from buyers. Cottrell, Wolfe and Clauer all have noticed an increase in search traffic while people are at home with little to do.
Google Analytics and website traffic statistics show that people are still interested in properties, Clauer said.
“The web traffic relative to last year is actually up,” he said. “It could be due to increasing interest. I hope that it’s not boredom.”
In March, sales were down 26% from March 2019, according to the Association of Realtors data. April numbers aren’t looking any better.
Numbers from March 20 to April 20 show that 88 listings in the county have sold. In the same time frame last year, 131 listings were sold, according to real estate data from the association.
Wolfe said there has been a big impact from April 1 in his agency’s data. In 2019, from April 1-20, LIV Sotheby’s had 69 closings, while in 2020, the agency has seen 20 closings in that same time frame.
While sales are down, Clauer believes the numbers reflect more of a pause than an indication that the market is taking a significant hit.
“People, they’re most concerned about themselves and their family,” he said. “I feel pretty comfortable that we’ll see a change next month.”
Once restrictions are able to be lifted, the brokers believe the economy will bounce back quickly.
“In the short term, we’re going to see a slowdown in the purchase of real estate,” Wolfe said. “But I think we’re going to be every bit strong later in the year and next year in terms of the sale of real estate.”
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