Should you buy or sell a home during the coronavirus pandemic?

Updated: Apr. 23, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Sales of new homes in the United States plunged 15.4% in March, according to the Associated Press.

That's when many states started issuing stay-at-home orders as the coronavirus spread nationwide.

So is now a good or bad time to buy or sell a house?

19 News spoke with Hoby Hanna, president of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

He said the impact of the pandemic varies state by state.

“I think that close numbers across the country will probably be off by maybe 20% forecasted just because of some fall throughs from mortgage lending and layoffs,” Hanna said,

Here in Northeast Ohio, Hanna predicts written business will be off 35 to 40% for the month of April.

Now to the big question--is it a good time to buy?

He said yes.

“And I think what we’re going to see is as the market opens up and people come back. We’re going to see more inventory hit the market. And we’re also going to see potentially interest rates go back up a little bit,” Hanna said.

He said low interest rates are good for buyers, and more sellers might be motivated to sell quickly because they already moved.

What if you're thinking of putting up the "for sale" sign?

“So I think if you're selling your house, now's a great time to get your house on the market. There's not as much inventory you're competing with, you want to put that inventory on. Even if it's internet showings, virtual showings and creates activity, because you'll have, I think you'll have some additional competition coming through,” Hanna said.

Hanna thinks virtual showings are a trend that will last, even when the crisis ends.

“I think while a buyer might look at 10, 12 homes online with an agent, screen sharing, using Zoom. Looking at a 360 view of the house from the comfort of their own home. And then narrow that search down and then look at the agent and say let's see these two or three that I'm really interested in and fine tune their process,” Hanna said.

He said local home showings are down about half of what they normally are, but things are already looking up.

“So we're seeing people coming back, activity on the showing side, which means a pretty good demand that we think will continue through May,” Hanna said.

Hanna thinks things are tough right now, but as states start opening up and jobs come back, real estate will pick up.

“I do think as we get to the third and fourth quarter, end of the third quarter beginning of the fourth quarter, we'll start to see a nice recovery in housing. And I'm a believer that housing will be a way out of this recession,” Hanna said.

Real estate is considered essential under Ohio's stay-at-home order, and realtors have been taking extra safety precautions when interacting with customers.

Hanna said they just ordered 10,000 face masks and more shoe ‘fitties’ for people going into homes.

And he said the coronavirus pandemic has really affected home showings.

“I think as homes open up you won't touch as much, you won't open many cupboards and closets, We'll ask sellers to open doors and turn all the lights on prior to coming to a house, but I think they'll be many precautions and social distancing. I think we'll have an obligation to not have as many people in the house, maybe opening the door for people and allowing them to go in, and then coming back out and asking the specific questions and discuss,” Hanna said.

Right now Howard Hanna is offering forgivable, interest-free loans for realtors who need some help, since their employees are considered self-employed with no monthly salary.

They get a set amount depending on their sales history, which will be taken against future commissions.

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