With the Arrival of the Coronavirus, Our Homes Seem More Important Than Ever

Maura Schauss |

By Guest Blogger Laura K. Biederman, Esq, Long & Foster Real Estate

When DC Metro residents were told to shelter in place, I began to field questions from buyers and sellers on the verge of a mild panic.  With good reason, buyers wondered whether they would be able to close on their homes before title companies might be forced to close.  Meanwhile, sellers questioned whether having people tour their homes was simply unsafe and imprudent.  While the last few months have certainly been challenging, and the learning curve in the real estate, mortgage and title industries has been quite steep, the sky has not fallen, nor has our market bottomed out. In fact, the DC real estate market looks quite resilient.  

How has COVID-19 affected the housing market in the DC area?

Everyone likes to think they are unique, right?  But in DC, we truly are!  We are fortunate to be insulated from negative economic trends, due to our federal workforce base, our substantial and very welcome contingent of diplomats, and the presence of national and international institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and NIH. Many multinational corporations make their home here, as well.  Higher levels of job security coupled with historically low interest rates, have kept the DC real estate market humming along.  While showings of active listings dipped precipitously in March and April, they have rebounded impressively in DC and the surrounding suburbs to near pre-COVID levels.  I believe that after an initial “pause” due to uncertainty and plain old stress, DC buyers and sellers are at it again. 

Buyers ask:  Why does it seem like home prices are skyrocketing?

Well, some things never change.  We are experiencing low supply and a high demand, hence, rising home prices.  For example, in May 2020, inventory in DC was down nearly 50% from last year.  Inventory in Alexandria and Arlington in May 2020 was down 43% and 22%, respectively.  This severe drop in inventory was not matched by a similar drop-off in buyer demand.  Given DC’s vibrant and relatively secure job market, there are still many qualified buyers out there.  As a result, when a home hits the market, sellers may receive multiple strong offers.  Buyers vying for a home are tweaking their contracts any way they can – including, escalating the offer price, removing contingencies, conducting pre-inspections, settling quickly and providing the seller with a free rent-back, if necessary. A nice note to the seller never hurts either!  As a result, home prices in Washington DC proper were up 10% in May 2020 from May 2019.  And yet, if you are in the market for a home and plan to be there a while, it’s still a great time to purchase – although you may need to steel yourself for some stiff competition.

Sellers ask: How do we sell a home during the pandemic? 

While we still need to keep a sharp eye on the shape of our post-COVID economic recovery, there is reason to be optimistic about the health of the DC real estate market and the prospect of selling your home.  After reading the above paragraph (thank you!), you know it’s a great time to sell your home. 

During these challenging times, many sellers are less enthusiastic about having open houses and also more attentive to how buyers will initially interface with their home.  In the past, virtual tours had been a welcome “extra” for buyers.  Today, they are more crucial to a buyer’s experience as they search for a home that truly works for them.  Virtual tours reduce traffic in a seller’s home to only the most serious buyers.  They also allow buyers to see the flow and details of a home that may not be so obvious in still photos.  My advice to sellers is “Get ready for your close-up!” Clean, declutter, paint, and consider high quality professional staging and photography. The investment of time and effort will pay off!

 

About Laura K. Biederman, Esq. at Long & Foster Real Estate

Laura Biederman is a "recovering" attorney and has practiced real estate in the DC metro area for over 14 years with Long & Foster Real Estate.  She specializes in residential sales and working with investors.  A longtime Washingtonian, Laura strongly believes that selling real estate is so much more than just finding a house - it's about achieving her client's goals and helping them find a home and a community they will love.  Contact Laura at LKBiederman@gmail.com or by phone on mobile: 202-309-1350 or office: 703-683-0400.

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