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Despite the coronavirus outbreak, skyrocketing unemployment and a gloomy economic forecast, the First Coast housing market is maintaining a bullish profile.
Since many Florida Realtors had already been using online tactics to help hook buyers and sellers, the Northeast Florida real estate market has held relatively steady. Northeast Florida Association of Realtors officials say agents who were agile have kept the market relatively robust.
Melanie Green, communications director for NEFAR, said there was massive uncertainty as the pandemic and social distance rules set in. But Realtors bounced back in earnest.
“They are still just as busy as ever,” Green said. “Part of it is people are still interested. Part of it is people had homes in the mix and homes were for sale or people were in the buying mode.”
The NEFAR figures for April showed a mixed bag for home sales. The number of home sales fell from the March figure of 2,672 to 2,334 in April. But there were fewer homes on the market and the value of houses for sale is climbing.
The April median home price increased to $250,000 compared to $243,634 in March, an 11% jump. Crucially, the number of houses on the market fell by 14.2%.
That means it’s a seller’s market and the value of each home is poised to go up more into the summer, the prime months for home sales.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has caused notable changes in the approach for real estate agents.
“They couldn’t show in the traditional format. We couldn’t have people tromping through homes being exposed,” Green said. “We did transition to a virtual format; virtual open houses, virtual showing centers with agents.”
The virtual home tours online have led to increased demands from potential buyers, Green said.
“When a Realtor is going into a home and they’ve got an interested buyer looking at something over their phone, device or iPad or what have you, it’s become much more precise,” Green said. “The buyer is saying, ‘I want to see the depth of that cabinet in the kitchen. How deep is that?’
“The Realtor is opening cabinets and showing them with a measuring stick… . There’s a lot more depth,” Green said. “The Realtor is even taking a phone [camera] and driving up and down streets, around the neighborhood to give them an idea of the neighborhood. Some are even doing that with drones.”
Todd Arnold, a Jacksonville real estate agent for Re/Max Specialists, has been handling home sales for two decades. He acknowledged the COVID-19 influence is unlike anything he’s seen.
“You have to adapt. You can make good of it or make bad of it,” Arnold said. “A lot of sellers are worried about listing a house because they don’t want to let strangers in their house who might have something that might lead to them getting sick.”
Technology has led to more out-of-state buyers of some First Coast homes, said Kim Martin-Fisher, who sells high-end homes with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty. Martin-Fisher has been an agent mostly for coastal properties for about 20 years She said the big change she’s noticed is buyers from well outside the area acting faster to buy here.
“If there’s a long-distance buyer that can’t get to Florida and wants to move to Florida they’re calling the agent for a virtual tour,” Martin-Fisher said.
An unrealized advantage prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Martin-Fisher said, is many people were forced to work out of their homes during work-at-home orders and now realize they can live anywhere. So, they’re First Coast bound.
“I’ll put a property on the market and within seven hours I’ll have 1,000 people looking at it, and it wasn’t like that in the past,” Martin-Fisher said. “They’re finding out they can work from home and they don’t have to be in an office in Manhattan, for instance.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE
• Online viewing can whittle down home prospects quickly.
• No perusing these days. You have to be serious before Realtors will show the house in person.
• Financial prequalifications, get the money technicalities out of the way before getting serious.
• Documents of record should be finalized online and esigning on computers is common.
• Make sure to confirm documents before esigning, wire fraud is on the rise.