Although several Washington state real estate agents reported to Inman on Tuesday that business had generally been as busy as usual, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman discussed the palpable effects of coronavirus on the Seattle real estate market in a few recent blog posts.
Since the beginning of March, Kelman has noted a “significant drop in demand” from Seattle area homebuyers and sellers.
“The reaction has been strongest among sellers, who worry about strangers entering their homes,” Kelman said in a post on March 4. “Three canceled their listings, and at least one buyer canceled an offer.”
However, Kelman later noted in a post on March 11 that year-over-year growth in early-stage demand in Seattle remains positive in the low teens.
Despite consumer fears over coronavirus, Kelman also stated that many markets across the U.S. maintain a strong market demand, particularly in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; and Boston.
To help potential buyers navigate the homebuying process through these uncertain times, Kelman announced that Redfin would initiate on-demand video home tours for those buyers particularly concerned with attending crowded open houses. The push-button tool on Redfin’s website allows buyers to request that an agent conduct a virtual home tour via video chat.
Similarly, Redfin has the technology in place for buyers to complete all contracts virtually, and in states where it’s legal, they can also use Redfin’s mortgage and title service to close on their new home electronically. Therefore, for particularly concerned customers — or those who think they may be ill — Redfin can help them complete the homebuying process without any person-to-person contact.
In line with recommendations from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the Centers for Disease Control and other experts, Redfin is also encouraging agents to use hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes at open houses and showings and generally advising agents to avoid shaking hands with customers for their own comfort and safety.
NAR issued a guide to coronavirus for Realtors on March 4, encouraging these measures, as well as urging Realtors to stay home if they have any sort of cold or flu-like symptoms, avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands, covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing and issuing a reminder that discriminating against any segment of the population — specifically, individuals from China, where the outbreak began — is against the Fair Housing Act.
In line with this point, NAR noted that Realtors may ask clients if they’ve traveled recently, have recently had a respiratory illness, and refuse to drive clients to see homes, but must do so equally with all clients in order to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act.
Contrary to what may be expected during these uncertain times, Kelman noted in his blog post on March 11 that listing activations have modestly increased, hinting at the beginnings of a rise in inventory.
“For the seven-day period ending last Sunday, March 8, the number of listings activated nationwide by all brokers increased year-over-year for only the second time in 2020, by about 1 percent,” Kelman said. “The number of listings being activated by all brokers in Seattle had a year-over-year increase of about 3 percent. In San Francisco, listing activations are up year-over-year about 20 percent in the last seven-day period.”
As we enter a new period of watching and waiting to see exactly to what extent coronavirus and a precarious stock market impact real estate, Redfin has created a new section on its website devoted solely to coronavirus housing market news.