My ski accident and follow up surgery have caused me to slow down, analyze what’s happening around me, my business, my clients, with my Team members and my colleagues, and think strategically about next steps and how to advise my clients. Here are my thoughts.
This past week was chock-full of wild events. In addition to my accident and surgery, there was Super Tuesday and the uncertainty of upcoming political events. We’ve heard nonstop about the drama and spread of coronavirus, which has created anxiety about our health and resulted in changes to personal hygiene habits as well as travel plans, office and school closings and the cancellation of events. All of this has resulted in a roller coaster of ups and (primarily) downs for the stock market and the unprecedented plunge of interest rates to their record low levels. Surprisingly, all of this “chatter“ has not impacted our business. Our clients continue to buy and sell homes, and move as needed, because life necessitates it. Last week we had three buyers who signed contracts. We had offers on three of our listings, including one which has languished on the market for almost 5 months. We had photos taken on two new listings about to hit the market. We also had two signed leases.
Certainly our team’s productivity is not representative of the market as a whole. But, our activity does reflect that buyers and sellers are making deals. It is comforting to know that our messaging is being successful. We've heard and witnessed that buyers are choosing to liquidate their equity holdings in favor of more stable real estate investments.
The statistics for Manhattan confirm the strength of the local residential real estate market. According to Urban Digs, the number of contracts signed in February 2020 was up 13.6% compared with January and 12.1% year-over-year. The number of pending sales as of March 8th was up 6.6% from last month and 11.7% from last year. Looking into my crystal ball, I see positive things moving forward; the energy and enthusiasm at open houses remain strong, and buyers are optimistic. Savvy buyers and sellers are eager to take advantage of the opportunities presented. On the buy-side, in addition to the low interest rates, there is the trifecta of an ample supply of homes, anxious sellers eager to make deals and lenders making mortgage money readily available. On the other side of transactions are the sellers who are ready and eager to begin the next stages of their lives and who don't want to place things on hold until the market shifts back in their favor. Properties, positioned to offer value and marketed effectively (targeted and messaged accurately, priced to the market and prepped, repaired, staged and pretty) are attracting attention, interest and offers.
So what are the next steps for our industry in today's environment? Of course, we face the new normal of incessant handwashing, sanitizing, and fist and elbow bumps rather than hand shakes, hugs and air kisses. We may start requiring open house visitors to disinfect their hands upon entering and provide alcohol based sanitizers at the entryway as well as soap and disposable towels in the bathroom. Homes need to be professionally cleaned routinely, and post open houses, doorknobs and faucet handles should be disinfected. On the marketing end, we intend to host more "virtual" showings, open houses and open houses by appointment only. Upon request, we will offer property tours via skype or facetime. The less interaction with crowds, and the less mass transit travel, the better. I suspect that buyers and sellers will elect to close by Power of Attorney when possible rather than attending in person. Buyers willing to purchase when there's blood in the streets despite the risk will be the big winners. And motivated sellers will do just fine.
As I think about the current health scare and our current economic situation, I know it is temporary. Any "correction" is likely to be for the short term only and we will return to "normal" - perhaps by the time this blog goes live. We can control only what we can control; worry about anything else is wasted energy. And - trust the numbers. The residential real estate market is stable and resilient. Carpe diem! Take advantage.
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