Opening Up to "Do" Real Estate Again ... It's Time.

Are we selling houses these days?
When will we have Open Houses again?
Can I get a better deal now? How can we go see a home these days?

Exactly what changes have the shifting economy and SIP brought to our greater Oakland-Berkeley real estate market? In some ways, not as much change as you might have expected; in other ways, possibly permanent shifts in the way we do business.

The End of Pandemic Paralysis

The week SIP was announced, more than 600 homes in the Greater Oakland-Berkeley market that had come to market immediately withdrew from the MLS, and one might have expected all of the buyers to disappear as well. That isn't what happened.

The biggest change to our market has been VOLUME -- the number of listings on the market, thus the number of homes being sold -- has so far this year been about half our normal Spring market. Understandably, homeowners delayed listing or withdrew from market during the first frightening weeks of thepandemic when we were forbidden to show homes. Nearly two months later that's shifting. With real estate recognized as an essential business, all of the services needed to present homes to market have been restored. Buyers are shopping and homes are returning to market in greater numbers each week.

But, no, PRICES so far have not fallen. In many cases, they actually have continued to rise. It's the never-changing dynamic of supply and demand ... and here in the Inner East Bay, we continue to experience a far greater number of people who want to own homes in choice locations than we have homes offered for sale. (Hint, Homeowners: This actually might be an AWESOME time to sell!)

It's not just a Bay Area phenomenon. This is nationwide.

Expert Answer:
Why Home Prices Are Rising During the Pandemic

Some economists say we've already seen COVID housing's "bottom".

Is this the right time to hit the market?

Pent-up penchants to transact among both sellers and buyers, and historically low mortgage rates, foretell a busy, busy SUMMER market opening up even more quickly than business and schools in general!

The pace of new listings is matched by the frequency of my phone ringing with questions from clients and would-be shoppers. I found myself answering questions so often that I developed a Zoom workshop on changes to our market during Shelter-in-Place, together with trusted mortgage brokers Dianne Crosby and Patrick Clendenen, SVP/manager and VP of Oakland-Berkeley Guaranteed Rate offices. If you missed the April 30 workshop, here are some highlights (updated as of this week).

Invisible versus Visible Inventory

For a few weeks, we actually had more homes-for-sale off-market (invisible) than on-the-open-market (visible to the average consumer shopping online), and we saw many behind-the-scenes off-market sales take place. You need to be in close touch with your Realtor at times like that we can share what we know about with you, even when you cannot see it for yourself in online marketplaces.

While many sellers have returned their homes to market, some remain reticent about "hitting the market" and instead are privately or quietly offering their home for sale through Realtors. Either way, buyers have emerged to scoop up each wave of opportunity. In Berkeley, for instance, we STILL have just two weeks worth of inventory, For perspective, the national norm for a "balanced" market is six months of inventory. Smart buyers and savvy sellers are forging the relationship with their Realtor so they'll be in-the-know. As our very changeable market can shift moods swiftly, and each neighborhood and city can beat to its own drummer. I urge you to reach out and let me know your questions so I can keep you informed as needed.

Summer Will Be The New Spring

It now appears that our "peak spring season" this year will arrive instead closer to summer.

The data tells us that our market is BEHAVING in most ways the same as ever. Year-over-year, by the end of the first quarter of 2020, (which includes the first two weeks of SIP), we had sold the same percentage of Greater Oakland Berkeley Market homes listed as we did last year (42 percent of homes listed from January through March had sold by the end of March both years). That said, from Jan. 1 though May 11, 2020, we had listed only 3744 homes in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties -- that is a 40% drop in Year-over-Year Volume -- from 6413 homes listed by this time last year.

Again, this is changing. In the first week of May, the number of listings coming to market is much closer to normal -- down just 14% from the same week a year ago.

Wait, I thought Everything had Changed!

You're right. A LOT has changed. And at breakneck speed. With ever-changing safety precautions to protect the public health and frequent government rules changes, the real estate community has had to regroup and re-launch as many new protocols so that we can continue to bring sellers and buyers together - safely. Our work is now remote and virtual as much as possible. When in-person, strict rules are in place.

No More Open Houses.

If you are shopping for a home, one really important change is what is now required to see a home in person. Where you once relied on Open Houses to try on a variety of homes and neighborhoods, the new normal is Virtual Shopping. That might sound frustrating, but, take it from me, you can't wait to see the new Virtual Showcase tools Compass has developed!

When these tools are not enough, we ARE empowered again to show you homes in person, by appointment, and in socially-distanced style. To do this, here are...the new rules:

Pre-approval and proof of funds upfront. To limit foot traffic to only serious buyers, homeowners and listing agents may require you to show your financial readiness before allowing you to enter their home. Many also require you to receive and sometimes to sign off on Disclosures before a showing.

Paperwork and PPE required. Our governing boards have implemented a new disclosure and permission form to make sure buyers and sellers recognize the realities of the health crisis we face and agree to abide by protective measures including masks, gloves, booties and sanitation of any surfaces touched.

Scheduling and Social Distancing. Only two members living within the same household, accompanied by one Realtor, may visit a property at any time -- and times must be scheduled in advance to ensure time to clean between visitors and to avoid overlapping visits that can lead to unecessary exposure between people who do not need to interact.

Tons More Tech

The good news is that you have a Compass Realtor at your service. As a technology company intent upon building the real estate platform of the future, Compass has taken the cue to accelerate and innovate robust tech solutions to bring real estate alive for homebuyers and sellers -- even when home viewing needs to happen entirely remotely. Here's a deeper look at exciting innovations I'll be sharing with clients:

Video Email and Live Postcards

Virtual Brochures and 3D tours

Interactive Virtual Tours and Online Open Houses

Low mortgage rates

Mortgage rates remain at record lows for buyers in good standing. The challenge is connecting with the lender who can best meet your needs and process your mortgage application. Many banks, backlogged with applications from small businesses seeking federally-backed loans, are moving more slowly, or tightening qualification guidelines, before granting your needed pre-approval. "Liquidity" has become an especially important term -- some lenders simply do not have access to cash to lend, or have to pay more (and thus charge you more) to gain access. As you know if you have worked with me, I keep in close contact with lenders I trust my clients to, and I can connect you with those in a position to complete the kind of loan you need for your purchase.

Safe Transactions

As essential workers in this time of crisis, Realtors, lenders, appraisers, inspectors and all of the professionals needed to make your home purchase or sale work have been empowered to take appropriate action to meet your (and our own) health and safety needs, at whatever level of comfort you desire.This is a time when we all embrace that what matters most is health and safety. That’s why Compass has made it possible to conduct touchless property transactions. From dynamic video tours of homes and neighborhoods that allow buyers to picture themselves in a prospective new home, to digital disclosure and contract review, to remote escrow signings and recordings, we are prepared and proactive in shaping our New Normal.

If 2020 was going to be your year to Sell or to Buy your home, it still can be. If you have questions, reach out. If you need help, we are here, with everything you need to move ahead. Just call: 510-725-7422.

'Til we speak again, be safe.

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Whether markets are rising, with scarce inventory and multiple offers, or shifting, with unpredictable outcomes, Eileen's clients close on time, on goal, and with as little stress as possible.
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