Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Buying or Selling a Home? Expect to Struggle in the Era of Social Distancing and Covid-19

Half of California Realtors said they expected coronavirus to have a negative impact on home sales

While most of us non-essential employees are staying at home, some people are trying to find a new place for more sitting around, playing video games, and spraying Easy Cheese straight into the mouth just to feel alive. But few are doing it successfully.

Just 10 homes sold in Santa Monica for all of March 2020, according to the research website Property ID. That's a drop of 84 percent from March 2019 when 66 homes sold. That March 2019 number is more in line with the amounts from earlier this year, with 65 homes sold in January and 55 in February.

Countywide, the numbers are equally as grim, with an 87 percent drop from March 2019 when 6,776 homes were sold to March 2020 when the total was 878. Statewide statistics for March are not yet readily available and national numbers will be released later this month. But there is no reason to expect happy news.

The people whose livelihood depends on home sales are nervous. Half of California Realtors said they expected coronavirus to have a negative impact on home sales, according to survey results released last month by the California Realtors Association. And that survey was taken in early March before most of us realized how extensive these restrictions would be. That survey also determined 26 percent of realtors said they had clients who put their purchases or sales on hold.

"It's a challenging time to be in the business," said one Santa Monica realtor who agreed to speak with The Observer if her name were not used due to security concerns. "People think of us as rich types, but the reality is that we are often working paycheck to paycheck like most Americans. Just our paychecks are larger."

Initially, the US Department of Homeland Security had determined realtors were not essential workers, meaning they were unable to do house and condo showings because of the stay-at-home order from Sacramento. That changed later in March when realtors were added to the list. The California Association of Realtors has issued guidance for its members on how to do a safe showing.

"Following these guidelines will enable realtors to demonstrate care for the health and well-being of clients, colleagues and the greater public welfare in reducing the risk of exposure to, and spread of, COVID-19, while providing the essential services of residential and commercial real estate recognized by the Department of Homeland Security as being necessary for the maintenance of America's Critical Infrastructure," the association's website says.

Among the recommendations in the guidance is that showings should be done virtually if possible. If it is not possible, then only a single agent and a total of two people should be in a home for a showing at the same time. If you go to a showing with your significant other, the association recommends one of you wait in the car while the other one is in the home.

"Sellers are to be advised that they should not be present within a dwelling at the same time as other individuals... if a seller insists on remaining on the property, that seller is to agree to the terms and sign the declaration that is required for persons entering the property," the association says.

As with most industries, time will tell how much home sales are affected by coronavirus and the economic downturn attached to it. Looking forward in general is impossible these days, so figuring out how the viruses will affect various industries is also a mystery. Like all stories these days, this one gets the tag of "to be continued."


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