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Real Estate Reporter

Your home is your castle

Or maybe it’s your jail
These might become must-haves when you go to an open house. Photo: Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

A question for the hive mind: Does sheltering in place make you aware of everything you dislike about your home and remind you of how much you want to leave it? Or does it comfort you and rekindle your love with your house, apartment, or condo?

For the past several weeks, we have all been hunkering down in our abodes. For many of us, that has meant working from home, something at least made easier with computers, the Internet, and video conferencing technology. Then in our off hours, we make use of video streaming services, books, newspapers, and magazines to fill our time. Families might dive into their hoard of board games. But except for those trips to the grocery store, lonely walks down the street, or trips to your place of employment if you have an essential job, we’re spending day after day after day within the same four walls.

Personally, I have gained a new appreciation for being in my condo. I’ve always liked it, but a couple years ago when doing an unplanned kitchen-living room remodel — courtesy of a dishwasher that had been leaking for years, unbeknownst to us — I had to spend frequent days working from my home office so I could be there for various contractors. I got very sick of it, and it was made worse by our rooms being jam-packed with all the furniture from the living room and dining room. Imagine if you could only move about in your home through endless corridors of boxes and stacked furniture, accompanied by the sounds of workers smashing drywall?

But now, with that far behind me, I am enjoying our private home space. A coworker, on the other hand, noted on a recent conference call that working from home isn’t a delight when three roommates are all trying to do it in one apartment. I’ll enjoy being back in the office one day because of the interaction and excitement of a buzzing business environment. She’ll enjoy being there because she’ll have less incentive to kill her roommates.

REAL ESTATE AND CORONAVIRUS

Though it remains to be seen what the exact impact will be on the real estate market from the coronavirus crisis, the general impact is pretty clear: It’ll be bad.

Dima Williams of Forbes recently wrote about how luxury real estate in particular is a mixed bag. In some places across the country, there’s no change in interest. In others, things are grinding to a halt. She cites one San Francisco broker who had a series of showings for high-end properties, but over one weekend, “activity in the uber luxury segment ceased.”

The collapse of the stock market — down at least a third from its high — certainly has to be affecting people counting on either investment income or worried about their company’s performance. It remains to be seen what effect federal efforts at stimulus and stabilization have on this and other sectors of the economy.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) released a report in March of a survey they conducted with their members. It showed that sellers were rapidly ramping up efforts to protect themselves from COVID-19 that might be delivered to their homes by potential home buyers. On March 9, 77 percent of respondents across the country said there had been no changes in home seller behavior in their local markets; by March 16, that had dropped to 40 percent. 

On that latter date, real estate agents nationwide reported that 27 percent of the sellers required buyers to use hand sanitizer or wash hands upon entering their home; and 14 percent would not allow buyers in with their shoes on, or they required them to wear footies. A much smaller percentage required potential buyers to wear gloves — 6 percent nationally, only slightly higher at 8 percent in areas with confirmed or presumed COVID-19 cases.

In another announcement, NAR reported that nearly half of their members said that homebuyer interest declined as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, three times higher than the number who reported declining interest just a week earlier.

So it’s affecting us individually and as an economic sector. There has been a slight drop in for-sale inventory, but NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, predicted that fewer homes on the market would prevent a drop in home prices. He predicted “a strong rebound once the economic quarantine is lifted.”

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