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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.

The coronavirus is directly impacting families in the Bay Area as state and county have ordered residents to stay home, except those who must provide essential services. Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) President Mary Kay Groth offers these tips for families and Realtors coping with the new normal in their lives.

Don’t panic
“Although the news is distressing, we should do our best not to panic,” says Groth. “We should stay informed with the latest news and be smart about taking precautions to prevent the virus from coming into our home and infecting our family.”

The Stay in Place directive is a good thing, says Groth. “It definitely means pausing our daily activities, but it is the right thing to do. Social distancing is one of the best tools to minimize exposure to and spread of the virus.”

Stay connected
Families can still connect with friends and relatives. “Staying home does not mean cutting ties with everyone. Thankfully, technology allows us to connect in many different ways. In addition to phone calls, text messages, emails, connect through FaceTime, Zoom, Messenger and other apps,” suggests Groth.

With schools closed, Groth encourages parents to talk to their children about the COVID-19 virus. “Young children may not understand what is happening. Parents need to assure them that all will be well and that staying home keeps them safe while doctors fight the virus,” says Groth. “We need to look at the situation positively, as an experience that can bring you and your children closer together.”

Additionally, multi-generation families should try to maintain as much distance as possible in order to keep safe. Designate a special room for older family members, especially grandparents, if you can, so they’ll have their own space, where they can feel safe and comfortable.

Maintain good hygiene habits
Even if you are home, continue to wash your hands and sanitize all points of contact, like counters, tables and doorknobs. Health care providers stress the most important thing you can do is wash your hands thoroughly for at least for 20 seconds.

Do home maintenance work
Take care of home maintenance tasks you have put off, like replace a light bulb, fix a leaky faucet, clean the garage, file papers, or trim bushes and plants.

Exercise
If you get cabin fever, walk around your neighborhood, but keep your distance from others by staying six feet away from other individuals.

REALTORS® can still work
Even if client-facing activities are at a pause now, work need not stop for REALTORS®, says Groth. “REALTORS® can organize their data base and stay in touch with their clients by email, text messages and phone calls. Check in with your older clients, see how they are doing. Many would welcome a friendly phone call from you.”

Groth urges REALTORS® to continue learning. “Check MLSListings’ on-demand videos and webinar classes. This is also a good time to take the California Association of REALTORS® 45-hour online continuing education courses for license renewal, which is a free member benefit.”

“The market was solid before this outbreak, we will get through this and families will be stronger after we weather this crisis together,” said Groth.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, REALTORS® expect the outbreak to negatively impact their business, primarily in the areas of home sales and time on market. Flash pulse surveys by both the California Association of REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS® imply, at least in the short-term, that home sales will be down compared to what would have been the case due to the spread of coronavirus.

According to the C.A.R. flash pulse poll conducted March 6-9 via email, due to the coronavirus outbreak half of California REALTORS® expected there will be a negative impact on home sales and 49 percent said time on market will be impacted. Conversely, 36 percent said they expect there will be no impact on home sales or time on market (38 percent).

Other areas that REALTORS® said would be negatively impacted were home prices (40 percent), closing (38 percent), supply (37 percent) and market competition (28 percent). More than one-half (55 percent) said there would be no impact on market competition, closing (53 percent) or price (45 percent). More than one in four REALTORS® (26 percent) said they had clients who put their home purchase or home sale on hold, and more than one-third of REALTORS® had clients asking them coronavirus market-related questions.

With the situation still uncertain and changing rapidly, Joel Singer, CEO of C.A.R., said, “It is a logical reaction to this reality that the global economy will be slowing in historically unprecedented ways for some period of time.”

NAR conducted a similar pulse survey of members on March 9-10, 2020, a week after C.A.R.’s pulse survey. NAR’s Economic Pulse Flash Survey found among REALTORS® who responded, 37 percent said lower mortgage rates excited homebuyers much more than the stock market correction, yet almost eight out of 10 (78%) said there has been no change in buyer interest due to the coronavirus. Sixteen percent said buyer interest has decreased due to coronavirus, with members in California and Washington State citing larger decreases in buyer interest, 21 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Nearly nine in 10 members (87%) said coronavirus has not affected the number of homes on the market. In Washington State and California, 5 percent and 4 percent of members, respectively, reported homes were removed from the market.

“Given that a home transaction is a major commitment, the uncertainties on how the economy will play out and the spread of the virus itself are barriers to homebuying and selling. The stock market crash is no doubt raising economic anxieties, while the coronavirus brings fear of contact with strangers,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “At the same time, the dramatic fall in interest rates may induce some potential buyers to take advantage of the better affordability conditions. It is too early to assess the likely impact as to whether lower interest rates can overcome the economic and health anxieties.”

Due to coronavirus concerns, C.A.R. and NAR have cancelled meetings and suspended non-essential volunteer and staff travel for association business. Also cancelled is the annual REALTOR® Legislative Day set for April 28. Legislative Day is the one day each year when over 2,000 California REALTORS® travel to Sacramento to meet their respective legislators and discuss real estate-related legislation that could impact property rights, their clients and their business.

In accordance to the March 17-April 7, 2020 Shelter in Place directive, the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) office in Cupertino will be closed. Staff will do their best to serve members while working remotely. Members can email membership@silvar.org with questions.

“Our primary concern is the health of our members and staff. This is the “new normal.” When the Shelter in Place order is lifted, all broker tours, open houses and showings will resume,” said SILVAR Executive Officer Paul Cardus.



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