The economic shocks generated by the coronavirus pandemic have left the real estate market in the greater metropolitan Washington area largely unscathed, real estate agents and analysts say.
“As soon as there started to be discussions of restrictions of movement and quarantine, we were still seeing requests for showings,” said Harrison Beacher, a Realtor with Coalition Properties Group and KW Capital Properties. “I didn’t see an actual drop in listings.”
Mr. Beacher said he quotes a lyric by rap artist Kendrick Lamar to calm the nerves of buyers and sellers worried about the coronavirus’ possible effect on property values: “We gon’ be alright.”
Realtor Thierry Roche said the pandemic in the long run could level out the high demand in Washington’s housing market.
“We have been in a housing shortage for a few years, which is why prices are going up,” said Mr. Roche of Keller Williams Realty in McLean. “That’s not good for affordable housing.”
But the pandemic will not affect the value of homes because the greater D.C. market has many more potential buyers than sellers, he added.
Washington’s home market has been hot for many months, with older homes around the region selling for a million dollars and more. Mr. Roche attributed the hot market to the 50,000 or so jobs that come to the area each year, citing a study by George Mason University.
With Amazon setting up its second headquarters in Crystal City, 25,000 high-tech workers eventually will require local housing, and real estate speculators have been buying up properties, he added.
So the steep, recent decline in the stock market probably won’t sink housing sales and values in the greater metropolitan area, which is one of the world’s most stable real estate markets, Mr. Roche said.
“When the market falls, we don’t fall as much as everybody else because we have the federal government, branches of the military, Beltway bandits and the internet based economy,” he said, adding that investors are pulling their money out of stocks and looking to put it in more stable investments, like real estate.
Dan Galloway, D.C. market manager for Redfin real estate brokerage, said it’s hard to identify trends because the pandemic is evolving every day. He said some demand is starting to trail off, but many listings are still seeing a lot of competition.
Meanwhile, Corey Burr, a senior vice president at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in Chevy Chase, said the 2008 housing market collapse is unlikely to be repeated because financial regulators have ended many of the practices that allowed banks to give mortgages to people who weren’t qualified financially to carry them.
Mr. Burr said he has noticed some sellers are pulling their listings, but the market is “holding up very well in the face of this virus. Our greatest concern is if society gets shut down for a period of time because then everything is going to get shut down. People aren’t going to be able to visit properties with the proper safeguards.”
Real estate agents are using creative means to engage their clients in the market and the community. Mr. Beacher’s agency in Northeast Washington organized a fundraiser among its clients for the Capital Area Food Bank and is matching the first $2,000 they donate.
“Desperation is the mother of invention,” said Mr. Roche, adding that he plans to use some of the marketing techniques he has employed during the pandemic, like showing his listings on TV and on social media, after it’s over.
Realtors, including Mr. Roche, are turning to video chats to show their clients properties, which he said helps clients be more efficient in choosing which houses they want to visit in person.
When visiting homes, agents are asking their clients to wear personal protective equipment like gloves and booties and to not come if they are feeling sick.
And because most jurisdictions do electronic filing with the court systems, deeds can be transferred between two parties without having to enter a municipal building.
But in the event that deed processing is stalled, Mr. Beacher noted that the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors has started to include clauses in contracts addressing delays that could occur in processing the contracts which would allow people to exit the contract after a certain amount of days.