What you should know about buying, selling a house during the pandemic

Number of homes on market drops amid fear over coronavirus

News4Jax's Cole Pepper takes a look at what real estate buyers and sellers are doing in uncertain times.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As of Wednesday, there were 6,685 homes for sale. That’s far fewer than the 8,744 that recently sold, according to Realtor.com. That’s also fewer home for sale now than typical for this time of year, but of course, there isn’t much typical about this year.

A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors found that 48% of real estate agents have noticed a decrease in buyer interest attributable to the coronavirus outbreak. But nearly as many—45%--said they believe lower than average mortgage rates are tempting buyers to shop anyway.

So if you are going to buy a home in this environment, what should you look out for? Exit Real Estate Gallery realtor Louis Leclaire says, as with anything else these days, it’s safety first.

“I get there early. I wipe down the doorknobs the light switches, make sure everything’s open so they don’t want to touch anything,” Leclaire said. “That’s pretty much the only thing that’s changed.”

More than anything, the number of houses on the market has dropped considerably. Realtor.com released a report yesterday showing that last week, the number of listings nationwide have dropped 41 percent year over year after a similar 34 percent drop the previous week. Haley Davis of Red Zone Realty says for sellers, there are some key factors in deciding whether to keep their home on the market.

“We have people on both sides of the spectrum people that are very scared,” Davis said. “And then people that truly are just trying to get to the next home or sell their home and just try and move on with their lives. So it either goes one way or another, there’s literally no in-between. We’ve had people keep it on the market, tell us to keep showing with precautions, and then we’ve had people be on the other end and say, 'Just take it off we’ll deal with it later.”

Also of note for buyers, you won’t’ find open houses right now, and some agents are recommending only virtual tours of houses, which can include some limitations.

“My team treats it like an out-of-town buyer--almost exactly what we would do for an out-of-town buyer,” Davis said. “We would go preview the home, as many times as they felt comfortable and zoom in on the that we felt were a concern.”

For sellers, if you are going to have showings for your home, consider what some sellers are doing now, leaving masks and latex gloves for prospective buyers to increase the safety for all parties involved.

“My wife’s and medical, so I have to be extra cautious,” Leclaire said. “We’ve been staying home and doing the online tours when we can, and just doing the best we can, in this situation.”

The low mortgage rates right now are very enticing. I spoke with one homeowner who said they refinanced to a rate of just over 2%. Also, If you do make an offer that’s accepted you might consider a remote closing, to keep you out of a crowded conference room.

About the Author:

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.