How is the local real estate market preparing to re-open and what will be different?

With Florida's real estate market driving a huge portion of the local economy, 83 Degrees asked Tampa Digs agent Susan Nelson-Crowley to reflect on how the industry is adapting during the COVID-19 pandemic to meet the needs of local buyers and sellers. Here is her report.

People working in the real estate industry have always been problem solvers. It’s what we do for a living. So while COVID-19 has certainly made an indelible impression on the local and national real estate market, we are adapting to the needs of our clients and our industry in the Tampa Bay Area.

Jerilyn Rush, RE/MAX MetroJerilyn Rush, RE/MAX Metro

After a bit of a lull, Jerilyn Rush reports a strong rebound in both buyer and seller interest. With interest rates still down, homes are very affordable.

Jerilyn and her clients are following CDC guidelines, wearing masks at every property showing, and utilizing disinfectant wipes and gloves.
Jane Floyd, NFM Lending

Now seeing an uptick in loan applications and a shortage of home inventory for her buyers. Jane believes the Tampa Bay Area will continue to see population growth due to relocation, adding to the competition for home purchases. She also expects the low interest rates we are experiencing to stay this way. The jumbo loan market is tight, however, jumbo loans are still available.

“If you are job and financially secure, it remains a good time to buy, but keep in mind that lending requirements are a little tighter than prior to the pandemic,’’ Floyd says.

Kim Miller, Majesty Title

Kim Miller, Majesty TitleTitle companies are providing many options for closings from socially distant outdoor patio closings to drive-in curbside closings to mobile notary closings, where a notary is sent to clients’ home or office, and RON (Remote Online Notary) signings, although this is not yet allowed by all lenders. Where in-person closings are conducted, attendance is limited to only the signing participants, and pens are single-use. Arrangements have been made allowing some employees to work from home and coordinate business through electronic means.
Phil Clark, Enterprise Title

Phil Clark, Enterprise TitleEnterprise Title switched to a paperless office in 2013, not knowing that it would ultimately be so important to enable employees to work from home. Half of his staff works from home seamlessly, with no impact on service. Clark also provides RON service and envisions that by this time next year, Enterprise will conduct at least half of their closings using the RON process. He believes the pandemic has shortened the acceptance of online notary services from 5-7 years to just months. Closings that do not use RON are conducted as “drive-through” closings at which documents are delivered to signers on a metal clipboard that has been soaked with Clorox wipes. Signatories use single-use blue pens.
Susan Nelson-Crowley, Tampa Digs

In my personal business with TampaDigs, I can report that my go-bag has more than the usual toilet paper and crayons and snacks for kiddos, and now includes gloves, masks, hand sanitizers, and wipes.

I meet clients at the homes I’m showing; we practice the 6-foot rule and don a mask. Clients are requested to refrain from touching items in the home. Sellers may choose to leave open closet and cabinet doors to allow buyers to look without having to touch. I am successfully continuing to list, put homes under contract, and close sales under the new environment.
Still, there are more varied ways of seeing a home than in person.

Realtors are using Matterport, or other 3-D tours, video tours through YouTube, and Instagram or Facebook Live to provide a glimpse inside a home. Video is the next best thing to being there in person, and many of us are rising to the challenge by providing not just home tours, but neighborhood video tours as well.
Of course, a new situation requires a new addendum or two. We now have an addendum for COVID-19 transaction extensions and a disclosure for showings.
Susan Nelson-Crowley, Tampa DigsWhere a door is closed, a window is opened as we develop new tools during this period. We have been encouraged to sharpen our business skills by every professional organization imaginable. Never before have there been more free or reduced-price professional development offerings. We’ve been encouraged to re-evaluate our business plans and get back to basics while at the same time sharpening our tech skills like video and social media marketing mentioned above.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how our clients will respond to COVID-19. Like always, we will help educate and heed the wishes of our clients.

Our sellers may find the thought of strangers in their homes to be distasteful, in which case we will embrace video marketing. Or perhaps sellers will sit on the sidelines for a bit and watch the market. Many sellers who took their homes off the market temporarily are now deciding when to return to the marketplace. 

Our buyers who are financially secure may find this the perfect time to get back into the market while interest rates are attractive, but they may still find that inventory is tight, and credit requirements are slightly up. 1099 buyers may find new requirements to provide recent income, and buyers can expect that employment will be confirmed and reconfirmed throughout the underwriting process.

Residential sales in Hillsborough County, 2019 vs. 2020 by month.Sheltering in place may have an impact on the requirements of the public as they take a hard look and evaluate what "home'' means. In my own marketing, I have emphasized the importance of having separate living areas, family room as well as living room, rather than a single great room if more people are working at home. Home offices may also become more important, as well as private outdoor space as found in a single-family home or some townhomes.
Alex Jansen, CEO and Broker of Coastal Properties Group International, studies the market extensively and offers this advice. He expects there to be pent-up buyer demand as the real estate community responds and does not expect a fire-sale on properties. He does not anticipate a real estate crash of any sort. In fact, he agrees with Jane Floyd that COVID-19 may be the impetus to accelerate the Florida migration from hard-hit northern cities. Alex reports an almost 3x uptick in contract volume from early April to early May.

As I said earlier, people working in the real estate industry have always been problem solvers. It is what we do for a living.

A 17-year veteran of the Tampa real estate market, Susan Nelson-Crowley is a Residential Realtor at Coastal Properties Group & Christie's International Real Estate. Learn more at Tampa Digs.