On July 6th, after nearly 4 months of being morally obliged and governmentally encouraged to remain in our homes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo distributed updated guidelines to real estate agents across New York State, allowing in-person showings to resume and encouraging a safe return to business. In response, those who had perhaps halted their New York City home search at the onset of COVID-19 were confronted with the following questions: What are these new guidelines – are they sufficient in protecting me? How closely are they being followed, both by real estate professionals and homeowners? Moreover, is it safe for me to be entering others homes again? In addition to all of these pertinent considerations, we’re now witnessing apprehension on behalf of buyers for another, perhaps more obscure reason – the long-term outlook and implications of investing in New York City real estate in the wake of a worldwide pandemic.
Let’s open by addressing the updated guidelines and how their implementation has unfolded over the past several weeks. First, agents have continued to encourage serious buyers to carry on preliminarily viewing homes virtually, either through the professional videography and 3D-tours now being provided on a wide scale or through a Zoom or FaceTime walkthrough. Only if the buyer feels confidently about the space after this step will an in-person showing be scheduled. Healthcare questionnaires and disclosures are then distributed to all involved parties and guidelines on social distancing, PPE and disinfecting are ardently adhered to.
After the in-person showing, should the buyer wish to move forward with a purchase, the process is more easily moved entirely to the virtual realm. Negotiations between brokers and then attorneys, followed by contract-signing and loan approval is being modernized in a way that allows buyers and sellers to function as such safely from their homes. Both parties have been encouraged to video-in to final walkthroughs and closings, too. These digital accommodations have ensured a safe process from start to finish thus far and might serve to technologize the home buying and selling processes going forward.
While buyers, sellers, agents and brokerages work to adapt to this new normal, they also ponder the market and what it holds, which – in short – remains to be seen. In uncertain times such as these, agents especially are eager to crunch numbers and reassure their clients as they pursue purchases and consider sales. Unfortunately, though, the real market trends won’t really be quantifiable until the outset of Q3 2020.
What we do know, however, is this: the recommencement of in-person showings began just over two weeks ago. In those couple of weeks, the number of contracts signed month-over-month from July to June has increased substantially; upwards of 1,100 new listings have come to market; the number of apartments on the market overall remained consistent with that same number in July 2019 and July 2018; and finally, home buying is up 44% nationwide. These numbers, in combination with record-low mortgage rates and record high loan applications indicate, at the very least, that there is reason to buy and therefore reason to sell, and moreover, that the market might just be stabilizing.