Real Estate industry adapts to COVID-19
Photo: Courtesy Delaney Becker 
Delaney Becker and Justin Katz’s dreams of closing on their first home didn’t include signing paperwork in their car, or Facetiming their mortgage professional, who happens to be Justin’s dad, Bruce. That’s exactly what happened though and now, house painted, mezuzah up, they are home.

Home is still sweet home

By Deb Silverthorn

When Delaney Becker and Justin Katz dreamed of closing on their first home, they couldn’t have imagined signing paperwork in their car, in the title company’s parking lot, with some aid from their mortgage broker, also Justin’s father Bruce who is a mortgage loan officer, guiding them via Facetime.

Dad’s advice? That, they had planned on but, in the era of coronavirus and its relegated social distancing, the experience has indeed been momentous.

“We pulled up, called to let them know we were there, and waited our turn,” said Delaney who, with Justin, had found their first home before the virus overtook the nation. “We called Bruce to review everything, signed off and we’re homeowners.”

For Delaney, an ICU nurse and Justin, a software engineer, work schedules have meant more time for the couple to paint, unpack and begin creating their home.

Parking lot signings are only the beginning of how COVID-19 is affecting real estate transactions. 

Buyers aren’t out looking, in person, and sellers are home — many with families — making that perfectly clean model home scene not as likely. Agents, lenders and all the spokes of the transaction wheels are juggling.

“My job hasn’t changed, per se, because I’ve transitioned to work from home pretty easily,” said Bruce Katz. “I like to be at closings, for all my clients, so the whole Facetime thing is taking some getting used to. Still, I’m grateful for the technology, a great support team to work with. We’re making it happen.”

With interest rates swinging from hour to hour, sometimes an even shorter span, Bruce’s phone is ringing often with clients asking what’s happening with rates and should they refinance. For maybe two in 10, he says, that it’s worthwhile. 

“I’ve been explaining the short-term against the long-term, but there are many factors causing people to jump to conclusions,” he said. “Things are very fluid right now, for every industry, and residential mortgage lending is no exception. People are just looking for straightforward advice and guidance.”

From finding clients to listing and showing homes, then negotiating sales, Julie Haymann, who with Lauren Savariego leads The Key Team Dallas of Allie Beth Allman & Associates, is making the new, happen. Deals are happening with her three teens home schooling and the whole family getting back to basics.

“The ‘mommy’ part is amazing and I love having them around. They’re pretty self-sufficient with their schoolwork and their teachers really have it together. They do school, and I do work,” said Haymann. “COVID has definitely affected our business though because you can’t be out the same way and be socially responsible.”

Haymann, and many in the industry, are creating video tours of properties for sale. In addition, many homes, while still available have been pulled from MLS (Multiple Listing Services), so it doesn’t appear they simply languished without action. Virtual happy hours for agents, exchanging information and support and other networking is keeping her busy. For their team, most of their first quarter homes are already under contract, just one listing is still in the works.

Sarah Diamond, a Realtor of the Diamond Group at Keller Williams, is also using virtual tours, meetings, and connections, all while managing her family of five.

“Closings are happening. People need to buy, or they won’t have shelter, they are taking advantage of low interest rates which are providing lower payments and some are moving to new jobs despite the current conditions,” she said. “Sales are happening but may take a little longer in higher price ranges. I’m optimistic though and think the speed of recovery depends on how quickly the government gets money into peoples’ hands, and how quickly we flatten the curve so everyone can get back to work.” 

There are no absolutes now, and no one knows the longterm effects, but Diamond doesn’t believe a housing recession will come from COVID-19. 

“Most owners are now equity rich, and in most areas there’s not a housing shortage,” she said. “I’m taking virtual meetings, helping clients make informed decisions. Home prices appreciated in 1980, 1981 and 2001 and for now, we’re actually in a good place.”

For Delaney and Justin, their mezuzah hung, it is home sweet home — the best place after all.

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