The Coronavirus has changed our local real estate market, but it looks like Jamaica Plain's real estate market is still hot.
To start: It’s important to take all of this with the notion that things could change drastically depending upon the severity and impact of the Coronavirus. Think of it, a week ago would we have thought that we’d no longer be allowed to dine in restaurants? Probably not.
Today there are very low interest rates combined with low inventory and strong demand -- that has still led to open houses attracting a good amount of interested buyers. In JP inventory slows down during the winter and picks up in the spring, but this has been a mild winter, which has led to a quicker spring market.
“We had 45 guests through on Saturday and 55 on Sunday to our open house,” said Josh Brett of Nextdoor Realty Team. “Shoppers didn’t grab many handouts which was notable because sometimes people grab two copies.”
But the looky loos, or people who aren’t serious about buying, the folks who want to check out their neighbors' house, or someone cavalierly viewing a home, aren’t showing up.
“From this virus there is a winnowing of lookers who aren’t serious,” said Constance Cervone of Cervone Deegan + Associates. “But people are making offers. We’ve got buyers making offers in the last week. People who need to sell a house, or people who have to move to a location are buying.”
Cervone has seen properties sell for more than asking prices already, and there are multiple offers on the first day of a home being on the market.
“I think serious people will still compete for property if there aren’t enough properties. Seems like we have not lost momentum,” she added.
"We have seen steady activity at properties that have come on the market in the past few weeks and have accepted 5 offers on recent listings. We believe that properties that are priced and marketed properly will continue to attract buyers," said Ellen Grubert of Ellen + Janis Team.
Just as they would normally, realtors are conferring with clients who planned on putting their homes on the market. Cervone said she has three Jamaica Plain properties hitting the market in the next two weeks, and that was after she discussed the local real estate scene with her clients. Brett said many buyers stayed home this weekend and informed him that they are postponing their search for now.
But the Coronavirus is causing significant changes to open house protocols.
FOCUS Real Estate is posting notices about precautions outside of open houses for prospective buyers. Their agents are signing all visitors in on iPads to minimize exposure. All of their listings are paperless, and all visitors will have digital access to all information on smartphones once they sign-in or scan a QR code posted. They’re also offering to open any doors, cabinets, or anything else for anyone who needs assistance. Social distancing, a term that most of us had never heard of until the last week, is being used at a distance of six feet or best as possible. After the open house they’re wiping down all common areas with disinfectant wipes with particular focus on door handles.
Cervone said they are allowing four to six people at a time in an open house. Prospective buyers must also take off their shoes as a precaution, and potential bidders are being asked if they’re healthy, and will be turned away if they’re not.
Realtors are also looking to do more virtual tours of properties, slideshows, video tours, FaceTime/Live showings, video conferencing, and other methods that limit the amount of people coming in contact with each other. Agents are being asked to use their discretion whether to hold broker or private tours.
While no one can predict the future, some realtors think there will be a temporary slow down in market activity to collectively keep people safe.
“Many listings are expected to be postponed past the next few weeks,” said Brett. “The anticipated effect of this will be slightly pent up demand and supply for the spring market.”
Sometimes real estate markets are also effected by natural disasters or stock market crashes -- those have lingering effects, but terrorism like 9/11 or the Boston Massacre causes short pauses as people’s realities are shaken.
Keep in mind that Boston is home to some of the top universities, hospitals, research centers in the world. There is already a high demand for properties.
“When we give presentations we say ‘barring unforeseen events’ -- things we can’t control,” said Cervone. “We say that if you put your house on six months from now we can’t control world events. Things can happen.”