Is that like the biggest oxymoron or what? But we are in strange times, so let's just roll with it. Between a global pandemic, a collapsing economy, political and racial unrest, a mind-numbing mask-wearing debate, the second wave of coronavirus, the re-shutting down of businesses, not to mention this is all happening during an election year where Kanye West is apparently running for president (seriously, what. is. happening!), June/July has been one crazy year.
Yet, despite the chaos, the real estate market is making a dramatic recovery. Mortgage applications are at an all-time high, interest rates are dropping to record lows for the third week in a row, and I have been really really busy (probably not a good data point but you get the idea).
COVID-19 has caused a lot of folks to rethink their living arrangements. The logic seems to be, if nearly everyone is working from home now, why not move out of the city and into a home in the 'burbs where you can get more bang for your buck? For some, that means buying a second home while continuing to rent in big cities like New York and San Francisco. The appeal? Cheaper prices, more space, closer to nature, and being able to raise a family comfortably, while still getting the occasional city fix. It's the best of both worlds!
After a brutal couple months (which equates to 250937 days in corona years), stats show that the housing market could actually be leading the economy's recovery. Mortgage applications rose to an 11-year high. Interest rates are at all-time lows. Average home prices across the country hit a record high of $365k. Buyers are like, what pandemic?
Americans' home-spending habits aren't changing as drastically as they have during past recessions, showing that people are confident that this too shall pass and the economy will get back on track. 8.5 out of 10 experts agree: the economy will begin to recover in the second half of 2020. Which is pretty much like, right now.
Why is everyone betting on the strength of the housing market?
While this data might be comforting to some, others are concerned about rising home prices and the widening gap in affordable housing. Home prices have gone up faster than most people's incomes, and the pandemic is only accelerating that trend. It remains to be seen what will happen long term (mostly because the crystal ball everyone pretends to have doesn't exist), but for now, it looks like our economy is slowly but surely on its way to recovery.
New home listings and sales have dramatically dropped since the pandemic hit, but traffic to real estate sites has actually gone up. Why is that, you ask?
Well! According to data from Zillow, there are now more buyers actively looking for homes compared to a year ago. More people looking to buy property? In the middle of a global health crisis??
Yep! There's still a ton of interest among buyers (probably more so now as they're stuck inside their less-than-ideal homes). San Francisco, among other major cities, saw a huge drop in listing views right after the pandemic hit, but has since bounced back to much higher levels than this time last year.
So what? This is significant because demand for housing is still there—it's just a matter of waiting for the supply to return to the market. With more buyers starting their search again and listings slowly trickling into the market, there's signs of pent-up demand and a backlog of listings bubbling beneath the surface just waiting to pop.
With our currently vulnerable economy, many are worried that the housing market could be in trouble just like during the last great recession. And that's a totally reasonable concern, right? Wellll, not really because here’s some relieving news you guys—this is NOT like the crash in 2008. And here's why:
So how does all of this uncertainty impact the housing market?
Short Term: Despite sellers still needing to sell, inventory will decrease sharply. Listings are still trickling onto the market, but nowhere near the number it would've been had our lives not been turned upside down. While many buyers are in "wait and see what happens" mode, serious ones and those who have been "waiting for the market to go down" remain undeterred and can expect less competition with a slight corona discount.
Long Term: We're going to see a deep recession, but most likely the shortest one in history, with the economy predicted to start recovering towards the end of summer. Prior pandemics showed that while the number of home sales dropped dramatically during an outbreak, home prices only decreased slightly. The pace at which prices were rising will most likely slow down, but nothing like 2008 prices as that was caused by oversupply and we still very much have a housing shortage. When all of this is said and done, the backlog of inventory combined with pent-up demand from buyers will stabilize the market again.
Buuut, disclaimer: things are changing so quickly everyday that this may all be different even by next week. The news is difficult to keep up with these days!
In an effort to save the world in the most anti-climactic way possible--literally just sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing--somehow a frenzy of chaos and mayhem have followed.
It turns out we are so interconnected in a domino effect way that when we cannot be in close proximity to one another, we cease to function as a society altogether and madness ensues. Jobs are evaporating into thin air (but at least the government is giving us a whole $1200 check to live off of?). We panic buy toilet paper (not me though, I'm dangerously down to my last 3 rolls). And worst of all, as if shelter-in-place wasn't hard enough already, we spend our time at home challenging each other to do push-ups online! (some of us are physically unable to do ten pushups okkk?)
But on the upside, when we don't have the usual busyness of everyday life to distract ourselves, we have time to slow down and reflect on the truly important things in life (liquid soap and hand sanitizer, apparently). We pick up new creative hobbies (eating while cooking is so underrated). We take time to virtually connect with each other (mostly out of sheer boredom but still, that totally counts). And some of us even have social distancing dance parties (full disclosure: I only read about them online because I'm not cool enough to be invited to one in real life).
My long-winded point is this: we actually need each other to have some semblance of normalcy and to simply survive. In order to take care of ourselves, we have to take care of each other, and vice versa. Just like this whole disease spread from one person to the entire planet seemingly overnight, I think kindness, compassion, and shaming people into staying at home can be just as contagious. Once everyone is happy and healthy again, we can finally leave the house and stop doing pushups once and for all!
While a part of me secretly loves living my best quarantined life, I can't wait to purposely see people in real life again. Until then, please feel free to call, text, email, or shout at me from a socially acceptable distance if you ever need anything. I'm here for you, mostly because I have nowhere else to be. :)
Is everyone else finding it impossible to read the internet or take part in a conversation without the coronavirus coming up? Well, this post will be no exception.
As someone who thoroughly enjoys the occasional night of self-quarantine (thank you DoorDash and Netflix), the coronavirus is the excuse I've been waiting for my whole life to stay at home wrapped in a blanket for hours on end without feeling guilty. But it turns out that buyers have other plans.
While everyone everywhere seems to be in panic mode—avoiding large crowds, eating out less, working from home more, washing their hands often (ok maybe it's not all bad?), and stocking up on toilet paper like it's the end of days, Bay Area buyers seem unphased and are still going to open houses in droves, determined as ever to make their next move. Maybe it's the ridiculously low interest rates, lack of inventory, rush of activity after holding off last year, ambitious 2020 goals, or all of the above, but buyers have a renewed sense of energy and are back in the market in full force.
Which means the bidding wars are making a comeback, as evidenced by these extreme examples:
This mid-century modern house in Montclair got 21 offers.
An Adams Point penthouse with a 500 sq ft roof terrace got 26 offers.
And one charming house in Fruitvale even got 42 offers. That's FORTY. TWO. OFFERS!
It truly is (March) madness out there, at least for now. With the spring market approaching, virus fears spreading, interest rates falling, important elections coming, stock market rollercoaster-ing, stay tuned to see how everything plays out. TO BE CONTINUED...
In hopes of protecting the economy from this whole coronavirus fiasco, the Fed just slashed interest rates this week and they are now at a record low of 3.29%!
To put it into real-life terms, a $600k loan at today's 3.3% rate vs. last year's 4.5% rate saves you close to $412 a month for the next 30 years. That's like 537 additional rolls of toilet paper each month until you're retired! (Do the math here if you want to calculate your own financial situation and how much uninterrupted bathroom time you can afford.)
But here's the catch: we can’t predict how long this will last. If this whole virus outbreak craze levels off soon, rates would likely bounce back up. On the other hand, if the outbreak continues to spread, it could drive rates down even further. It’s all unpredictable at this point, so you may want to lock in a solid rate now for buying or refi, juuuuust in case they creep up again. Lmk if you need a lender!
In 2017, Business Insider writer Sam Dogen (also renowned author of my favorite finance and real estate blog Financial Samurai) became a stay-at-home dad after he sold his SF rental property for $2.75 million, leaving him with a $1.8 million profit after paying off the mortgage, taxes, and fees. Umm, can we say GOALS? Now a couple years later, he wants to buy property in SF again. Why now, you ask? (Or maybe you didn’t ask and I’m gonna tell you anyway?)
Well, Dogen says property prices in the US have softened and mortgage rates have collapsed. All while rent prices continue to rise! Plus he thinks the fact that 2020 is an election year, the stock market is thriving AF, and the amount of foreign buyers has dramatically decreased, all point to now being a good time to start looking into purchasing. He listed about 87** other reasons if you’re interested in reading all of them (**ok fine slight exaggeration, but honestly, there were a lot and they were all pretty convincing).
*Disclaimer: Every economist, journalist, and psychic will have varying degrees of optimism and pessimism about where the housing market is going—up, down, all around. If you want to compare different points of view and form your own educated prediction, here are a few other market forecasts to satisfy your inner nerd: Realtor.com, Redfin, Forbes, Freddie Mac, and Zillow.
All things real estate.