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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.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has extended the state stay-at-home order through the end of May and has California’s Pandemic Roadmap to safely re-open all businesses and institutions stages. Meanwhile, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, along with the four other Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, have announced they will ease some of their Shelter-in-Place (SIP) restrictions effective Monday, May 4. With regard to the practice of real estate, the Santa Clara County Public Health Order states (SILVAR has confirmed that the same applies to San Mateo County):

“Service providers that enable real estate transactions (including rentals, leases, and home sales), including, but not limited to, real estate agents, escrow agents, notaries, and title companies, provided that appointments and other real estate viewings must only occur virtually or, if a virtual viewing is not feasible, by appointment with no more than two visitors at a time residing within the same household or living unit and one individual showing the unit (except that in-person visits are not allowed when an occupant is present in a residence);

Previously, private showings and walk-throughs were not allowed when an occupant was living in the residence. This mirrors prior direction for limited photography/videography, inspections, and necessary work to close a transaction, while generally limiting it to no more than three people at a property at one time.

The following guidance for showings of properties continue:

  • No open houses.
  • Virtual showings are highly encouraged. If a virtual viewing is not feasible, then an in-person viewing of the property may be done by appointment only.
  • During the in-person showing of the property, all social distancing protocols must be practiced, and protective measures, such as the wearing of gloves, cloth face coverings, and not touching of surfaces and maintaining a distance of six feet between each other must be followed.

For more information on this announcement, visit the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® website at http://www.silvar.org.

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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