In March, when Americans began sheltering in place as COVID-19 rippled across the country, real estate activity came to a sudden halt in many markets.
Now, however, as COVID-19 cases top 100,000 on a daily basis and graphs of new cases make the March spike look diminutive in comparison, Realogy CEO Ryan Schneider said he doesn’t expect the surge in home sales to stop anytime soon.
“All of us now have figured out how to handle things,” Schneider said Thursday at the virtual J.P. Morgan Ultimate Services Virtual Investor Conference. “I think agents and brokers, in particular, did a very nice job taking care of the clients safely and have shown that they can do that.”
He pointed to remote notarization, which, “wasn’t legal in more than 15 states in March,” but has been made legal in a ton of states due to emergency orders, Schneider said.
Real estate will be subject to what Schneider called “macro forces,” and some troubling indicators are starting to emerge. New jobless claims increased for the first time in several weeks, with nearly 750,000 Americans filing for unemployment this week. This comes amid a legislative standoff in Washington D.C. over an additional stimulus boost.
But even while millions were filing unemployment claims over the summer and Americans knew significantly less about the deadly pandemic, hundreds of thousands of transactions were getting sealed, Schneider said.
“When we’ve seen some of the local spikes in non-New York City areas in the last three or four months, it hasn’t slowed things down much, we can see from our data,” Schneider said.
“I don’t think anybody in the business community is excited about [the spike], but we think we have a pretty good handle on how to do business.” Schneider added. “It might slow down closings in the short-term but it might also accelerate the social trends the first wave kicked off.
New York City was hit hard in the early days of the pandemic, causing activity to plummet. Sales volume fell approximately 80 percent in the second quarter, according to Realogy’s data, Schneider said. The sharp decline led to much hand-wringing over the city’s future.
But similar to the months following 9/11, Schneider believes New York City will make a comeback. The housing market in New York is getting better each month, Schneider said, but not yet back to where it was before COVID-19.
“We’re bettors on New York City,” Schneider said. “We bet on it as a company right after 9/11 and we’re betting on it again for the future.”