While the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed real estate transactions for some people, housing markets in many areas of the country are showing a strength and resiliency unimagined earlier this spring. It is critical to understand the pandemic’s impact on real estate, from simply touring a home to the ability to close transactions.

As the situation continues to evolve, the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® encourages buyers and sellers to follow CDC guidelines to protect their health and safety. Below are some important tips on buying and selling a home during the pandemic from houselogic.com:

What Buyers Need to Know:
Home tours look a little different
–Where in-person showings are offered, potential buyers can expect quicker tours and asked to take extra precautions, such as removing shoes, using hand sanitizer, and refraining from touching items in the home. Many REALTORS® also are guiding buyers through virtual home tours.

Interest rates are low –Interest rates remain at all-time lows and home prices are rising or holding steady. As more people file for unemployment, however, mortgage lenders have tightened lending standards. Potential buyers can prepare for homeownership by understanding their budget, building a good credit history, and getting prequalified for a mortgage. Some lenders allow borrowers to lock in interest rates for limited time periods.

Don’t expect a discount –Home prices in Silicon Valley are holding steady, with majority of prices higher from one year ago, according to local multiple listing service MLSListings. The median sales price of cities in the county are exhibiting double-digit percentage increases year-over-year. Days on market for most cities are down to the single digits, a sign that homes are selling quickly. The sales-to-price ration averages 102 percent.

Expect delays –Those terminating a lease should leave some wiggle room, even an extra month or two, between moving out of a rental and into a new home in case of an unexpected delay. Hiring moving crews may prove challenging, so buyers should give movers as much notice as possible ahead of their scheduled move.

What Sellers Need to Know:
Use tech tools to help market and show your home
– For sellers uncomfortable with in-person showings, many digital tools are available to help them continue marketing and showing their home. A REALTOR® can help coordinate three-dimensional interactive property scans, virtual tours (either pre-recorded or live), on-demand open houses, and virtual staging to showcase their property. If sellers receive an offer on their home, their REALTOR® has the ability to present it to them virtually.

Take steps to protect yourself – “Sight unseen” purchases are not a new phenomenon, but this pandemic has certainly increased their prevalence. Sellers may want to include language in the purchase agreement that ensures buyers acknowledge they are responsible for personal verification, walkthroughs, and professional inspections to confirm that the property meets their needs.

Buyers are still searching – It continues to be a competitive market due to the limited supply of homes for sale. As potential buyers increasingly browse homes online, having attractive and accurate photos and videos is even more important. Sellers can use this extra time at home to make updates around their home and take fresh pictures of those improvements.

For more information and resources on buying or selling a home, visit www.houselogic.com.

The National Association of  REALTORS® (NAR) Board of Directors today strengthened REALTORS®’ commitment to upholding fair housing ideals by approving a series of recommendations from NAR’s Professional Standards Committee that extend the application of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics to discriminatory speech and conduct outside of members’ real estate practices.

Article 10 prohibits REALTORS® from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity in the provision of professional services and in employment practices. The Board approved a new Standard of Practice under the Article, 10-5, that states, “REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs” against members of those protected classes.

The Board also approved a change to professional standards policy, expanding the Code of Ethics’ applicability to all of a REALTOR®’s activities, and added guidance to the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual to help professional standards hearing panels apply the new standard.

Finally, Directors approved a revision to the NAR Bylaws, expanding the definition of “public trust” to include all discrimination against the protected classes under Article 10 along with all fraud. All REALTOR® Associations are required to share with the state real estate licensing authority final ethics decisions holding REALTORS® in violation of the Code of Ethics in instances involving real estate-related activities and transactions where there is reason to believe the public trust may have been violated.

These changes are effective immediately, though the changes cannot be applied to speech or conduct that occurred before today. NAR has produced training and resource materials to assist leaders with understanding and implementing the changes and will be rolling those out in the coming weeks.

READ MORE HERE, INCLUDING FAQs

Bay Area residents already beleaguered by the coronavirus pandemic are still facing wildfires that continue to erupt around the region. The heavy smoke from the fires continues to endanger the health of residents.

Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR), called on residents to take steps to protect themselves from the wildfire smoke. “Our hearts go out to our brave firefighters and the victims of the fires across the state. Breathing the unhealthy air from the fires is dangerous, especially for children whose lungs are still developing, and for those who have heart or lung diseases or asthma and other high health risks.”

SILVAR shares the following tips from various agencies, including the Center for Disease Control and Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency, to protect families from wildfire smoke.

Pay attention to air quality alerts. Stay informed by visiting http://www.sparetheair.org. Sign up for Spare the Air Text Alerts on the website.

Stay indoors with windows and doors closed. Now is not the time to do outdoor activities, like mowing, trimming bushes, or running and other strenuous activities.

Protect yourself from smoke. If you need to be outside, use a N95 mask or greater that fits snugly on your face. N95 masks are precious protective equipment for frontliners treating coronavirus patients, so to conserve their use, please heed advice to stay indoors.

Run the air conditioner. Keep your air conditioner’s fresh air intake closed and make sure your air filter is clean. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.

Do not add to indoor or outdoor air pollution. Do not burn candles or use gas or propane. Do not fry or broil meat, smoke tobacco products, or vacuum. It is illegal to use fireplaces, woodstoves, outdoor fire pits or any other wood-burning devices during a Spare the Air Alert.

Reduce smoke in your vehicle. When on the road,close your car windows and vents. Run the air conditioner in recirculate mode.

Conserve on energy. To prevent service interruptions, reduce your energy usage, including use of major appliances during peak hours of 3-10 p.m. Keep air conditioning at 78 F degrees and turn off all unnecessary lights.

Aside from being a presidential election year, much is at stake for REALTORS® this November. Property taxes, rent control, and the California Association of REALTORS®’ portability initiative are all on the ballot and could impact your business. Make sure REALTOR® voices are heard by registering to vote now. The deadline to register to vote for the November 3, 2020 election is Monday, October 19.

This year ballots will be going out one month prior to the election date and traditional precincts are no longer how Californians will vote; instead, California voters will need to return their ballot by mail, or return it to one of the approved vote centers in their county. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by November 3rd to be counted.

Make your REALTOR® voice heard. Register to vote on November 3rd.

REGISTER TO VOTE HERE
SAN MATEO COUNTY VOTING CENTER LOCATIONS
SANTA CLARA COUNTY VOTING CENTER LOCATIONS


September is recognized as REALTOR® Safety Month and National Preparedness Month. In light of the wildfires that continue to burn and disrupt the lives of many individuals and families, it is a good time to stress preparedness in case you need to evacuate your home, says Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR).  

“Although evacuation warnings and orders have been lifted in Santa Clara County, we need to be vigilant and have a plan and know what to take and what to do in case we need to evacuate our home,” says Groth.

SILVAR shares the following evacuation tips from ready.gov, the official website of the Department of Homeland Security, and HouseLogic.com, a source of information for homeowners, homebuyers and sellers from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Make a Plan

  • Assign an out of state contact whom you will contact to let them know where you are going.
  • Decide on where to meet as a family in case you get separated.
  • Always have your gas tank full or half full in case you must evacuate right away.
  • In case the power shuts off, have a battery-operated radio and keep a charged battery pack for your cell phone, so you will not be cut off from the news and can contact people.
  • Sign up for free text alerts from your county.
  • Learn how to safely shut off all utilities in your home.
  • Prepare a checklist of what to take and what to do.

What to Take

  • Your driver’s license, proof of insurance, medical records and other important documents, including passports and Social Security cards
  • A grab-and-go bag with essential supplies, such as water, food, medication, and first-aid supplies, pet food, including face coverings and hand sanitizer to protect you from coronavirus
  • Cash in small bills, as the ATM machines may not be working

What to Do Before You Leave

  • Lock all the doors and windows in your home.
  • Unplug electrical equipment and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding. If you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity.
  • Wear sturdy shoes and protective clothing.
  • Gather your pets and load them in the car.

“Having a plan and a checklist of what to do and take will keep you calm if the worst-case scenario happens and you must evacuate your home,” says Groth.

Three real estate brokers from China, Japan and the Philippines shared the impact of COVID-19 on their real estate markets and prospects for the future at a Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® virtual global event. They included Gene Shi, president of International Operations for Homelink (Linajia Real Estate Agency Co., Ltd.); Manabu Suzuki, vice president and co-founder of International Property Agent (IPA) Co. Ltd. in Tokyo, Japan; and Andy Mañalac, chair and co-founder of Havitas Developments Corporation in the Philippines. Michi Olson, Dean of Resources and Global Connections LeadingRE, served as moderator.

Shi said the coronavirus is largely under control in China. The country’s economy is turning around. The economy expanded 3.2 percent from April through June compared to the same period last year.

The pandemic caused year-over-year real estate sales to fall 15 percent from January to April. Since then, the market is gradually returning to normal. Sales in May were just 10 percent below May sales last year.

Shi said the focus of real estate is on new homes, whose sales have increased 8 percent. Home prices are rising, especially in the major cities of Shenzhen, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Beijing.

Chinese interest in U.S. properties has shifted from high-end to mid-level properties due to China’s growing middle class. Places of interest are in Houston, Orlando and Boston. For now, due to the travel ban, the Chinese can only surf the internet for these properties.

Suzuki said coronavirus cases started rising in Japan in mid-March. From April 7 to May 25, the government issued a lockdown. Unlike China, Japan had “a more gentle request-based lockdown.” All public transport continued to operate, no penalties/fines were imposed, and citizens wore masks.

Japan’s real estate sales transactions dropped 82.2 percent in May from the previous year, but prices were up 6.4 percent. Suzuki said buyers are maintaining a “wait and see attitude” and sellers do not appear in a hurry to sell. There is more buyer interest in resort getaways that have less coronavirus risk, but are still in close proximity to the city.

READ MORE HERE

According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2020 Member Profile, the typical REALTOR® has not changed much since the NAR 2019 survey. REALTORS® continue to come from a variety of demographic groups and career backgrounds. They represent the various age, ethnic, and language that define their local communities. They are more tech savvy today, using their smartphone and computer on a daily basis and online tools to communicate with clients.

The typical REALTOR® is a 55-year-old, college-educated White female, and a homeowner. Sixty-four percent of all REALTORS® are women. For 73 percent, real estate is their only occupation. Also largely unchanged from the previous year, 69 percent are married, 16 percent are divorced, and 10 percent are single or never married.

Eighty percent of REALTORS® are White, while 10 percent are Hispanic/Latino, 6 percent Black, and 5 percent Asian/Pacific Islanders. Eighty-two percent are fluent only in English. Respondents under 50 years old were most likely to be fluent in another language, with Spanish being the most common second language. Thirteen percent said they were born outside of the U.S.

Already before the coronavirus pandemic, REALTORS® had begun to adapt technology to advance their business. Among the 12,464 members who responded to the survey, more than nine in 10 members use a smartphone and a computer daily, while just about all members regularly email clients. Text messaging is the preferred means of communication for REALTORS® (94%), followed by email (91%) and telephone calls (89%). Seventy percent of members said they have a website for business use. Majority use social media apps to communicate with clients. REALTORS® were typically most active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

“The survey was conducted prior to the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent nationwide stay-at-home orders. REALTORS® are very innovative, and if the same survey is conducted today, it would show an even higher percentage of REALTORS® utilizing tech tools, and they have done so successfully from the start of a transaction to completion,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®.

On average, members have nine years of experience in the industry. Seventeen percent have more than 25 years of experience. Sixty-five percent of respondents have sales agent licenses, 22 percent hold broker licenses, and 15 percent have their broker associate license. Seventy-three percent of members indicated they specialize in residential brokerage.

“People tend to use the terms REALTOR® and real estate agent interchangeably, but they are not the same. Although both are licensed to sell real estate, a REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and pledges to follow the Code of Ethics, which contains 17 articles and standards of practice that are higher than regular business practices or those required by law,” said Groth.

Groth added, “REALTORS® must abide by a Code of Ethics, which is diligently enforced by our peers through the Grievance and Professional Standards process. As such, a REALTOR® is held to an even higher standard of conduct than other real estate licensees. Only REALTORS® can use the REALTOR® trademark by their name.”

Silicon Valley home sales bounced back in June, as lockdown restrictions eased, bringing sellers and buyers back to the marketplace. The San Francisco Bay Area saw a moderate 3.6 percent increase in home prices and a 69.2 percent sales increase from May. Santa Clara County made a major comeback in sales volume, price, and new listings.

“The housing market is making a good recovery which will hopefully continue,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “The pandemic hasn’t stopped buyers.”

Santa Clara County saw June packed with a higher sales volume and strong prices, according to data from MLSListings presented in the Aculist Monthly Market Minute report by Aculist senior product marketing manager Michelle Ronco. Ronco noted the change in sales volume illustrates the market’s recovery. Santa Clara County sales volume in May was barely half (49 percent) of the sales volume in May 2019, then rose steadily in April to 62 percent. By June, sales volume increased to about 98 percent of sales volume in June 2019.

Santa Clara County’s median home price reached $1,382,000 in June, up 1.2 percent from May’s median of $1,365,000, and up 2.4 percent from the June 2019 median of $1,350,000. Although inventory is down 33 percent year-over year, new listings have increased for two straight months, from 732 in April, to 1,045 in May, and 1,066 in June – a clear sign that sellers are returning to the market. The county’s sales-to-list price ratio in June was 101 percent, just one percent lower than a year ago.

Further highlighting the market’s rebound are places that experienced month-over-month increased median home prices. These include cities in the local REALTOR® association’s service area, like Saratoga, Los Gatos, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain View. The cities of Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Saratoga, Santa Clara, San Jose also saw new listings increase from May to June.

Ronco added average days on market dropped in June – in some cases by nearly half of the previous month. In hot markets, like Cupertino, the average DOM fell from 22 days in May to 12 in June, Monte Sereno, from 75 days to 44; and Sunnyvale, 27 days to 18. This means buyers have less time to decided on a purchase due to heightened competition.

“The virtual tours and virtual open houses have appealed to buyers. Traditional open houses are still not allowed, but in-person showings by appointment and limited to just three persons at one time, including the agent, have helped clinch many deals,” said Groth. “At our association’s REALTOR® district virtual meetings, our members are reporting multiple offers are taking place on properties that are priced competitively.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many REALTORS® to quickly transition to the digital age and a new era of video conferencing and online meetings using tools like Zoom, Skype, Facetime Live, Microsoft Teams and many others.

It is important to remember even as we all work from home, the video conference meetings we attend are professional meetings, and participants should practice good video meeting etiquette.

Here are some best practices for online video conference meetings from Zoom and other resources:
1. Save your invitation confirmation, which provides the meeting ID number, password, and a link to the meeting that is unique to you. It cannot be replaced. Do not share invitation links with others.

2. Download the Zoom or whatever conference app you plan to use. Sign in and familiarize yourself with the audio and video settings. You can do a test to see how you look in the camera and test the audio.

3. Find a quiet place without background noise, where you won’t be distracted or interrupted by a television, phone calls, barking dogs, etc.

4. When you are let in by the host, click “Join Audio” so you can hear speaker. Do not interrupt the meeting to let the whole group know that you can’t hear, or can’t see the person on the screen.

5. Make sure you have a work-appropriate background. Nobody wants to see your bedroom or personal collections! You want participants to focus on the meeting and not on your background. Better yet, use Zoom’s virtual background feature to eliminate background distractions. Avoid backlight from bright windows.

6. Use the video option when possible as it gives you a greater presence at the meeting. If you are using you mobile phone, for security reasons add your name instead of your phone number, so the host and other participants can identify you.

7. Don’t look sloppy. Dress for your audience. Your outfit should match the expectations of your audience. Be professional-looking. Use a professional photo in place of video if you are not appropriately dressed.

8. Join the meeting early, at least 3-5 minutes before the start of the meeting. Be patient and wait until the host lets you in.

9. Mute your microphone when you’re not called on to speak.

10. Do not interrupt the speaker. Use the chat function to ask questions. And don’t be rude in the chat. Everyone can see the chat box, even the speaker!

11. Be aware that you are on camera. Stop looking at yourself, avoid doing other tasks like checking emails, looking at your phone, or worse yet, snoozing. Look into the camera when talking instead of looking at yourself.

12. If you need to go the bathroom while on a Zoom call, do not forget to turn off your video and audio. You don’t want everyone to remember you brushing your teeth and gargling, or flushing the toilet, because they will!

June is National Homeownership Month, a time to recognize the value of homeownership. Owning a home is more than an address. When you invest in homeownership: you build financial stability, gain the freedom to create a home that fits your lifestyle, and play a role in strengthening your community.

Since Americans have been forced to shelter in their place of residence due to the coronavirus pandemic, the home has come out on top. Families are discovering their home and improvements they can make. Homeownership has mattered even more to prospective buyers.

“The home is now not just a place to live, but also a place to work,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) and a REALTOR® with Sereno Group. “With more companies allowing their employees to work remotely, surveys show a growing trend in buyer preferences to expand their home search farther from the city to places with more open space and for larger homes with a dedicated space for a home office.”

The social benefits of homeownership are many. Homeowners move far less frequently than renters, making it easier to build community networks and support systems. This results in a higher membership in voluntary organizations, greater social interaction in their communities, better school performance by children living in owned homes, a higher rate of high school graduation and higher earning, and better physical, psychological and emotional health outcomes.

The pandemic has caused a drop in home sales, but it has not brought transactions to an absolute halt. In fact, market activity has grown in the past month as REALTORS® embrace technology to help their clients achieve their dream of homeownership. Since traditional open houses are banned, SILVAR REALTORS® like Mary Jo McCarthy are holding open houses virtually.

McCarthy, a REALTOR® with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty, recently told SILVAR members, “It’s the path that we’re in, so I felt I have to learn it. I’m in the weeds right now and just figuring out how to navigate, but it shows my clients that I’m moving ahead with technology.”

In-person showings are allowed now, but with only three persons – two from the same household and the agent. Health and safety restrictions must be followed. Mitra Lahidji, a REALTOR® with Compass, described the process. “We kept a 6-foot distance from each other, we had face masks and gloves. I gave booties to my clients, two persons only, and then wiped the areas we touched.”

“We are so fortunate technology has allowed us to be in touch ‘face to face’ with our clients,” said Groth. “For now, the best value we can give our clients is to know our marketplace so every buyer who wants to achieve their dream of homeownership can, and to also be a voice of calm and assurance when they are feeling overwhelmed with all that is happening around us.”

The National Association of REALTORS® is celebrating the new era of homeownership and recognizing the people, policies, and programs that are #CreatingHome now and into the future. Visit https://homeownershipmatters.realtor/homeownership-month-2020/ for homeowner stories and expert advice.

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