Realtors fear Citrus County's brisk housing market could cool off substantially due to the coronavirus.
"I think it already has,” said Kevin Cunningham, broker-owner of RE/MAX Realty One.
With people being told to stay home, who’s going to venture out to look at a home for sale and risk people coughing or touching things?
What buyer would be willing to gamble on a possibly collapsing economy and buy a home?
And, as more people fear a loss of wages due to having their jobs cut, the last thing they want to do is make any major purchases.
Some local sellers have asked their home be taken off the market until the crisis passes. Cunningham discourages that. Instead, he’s working with clients to set up restrictions who can see a listed home and make sure health and cleaning protocols are observed.
In short, he stresses to sellers they be “in complete control of who enters their home.”
Buyers are still free to view a listed home online and, if interested, set up an appointment, he said. That means proper disinfecting of door handles, faucet handles and heavily touched areas.
“It’s important for us as Realtors to take these safety (measures),” he said.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) “strongly encourages” members to consider the advisability of continuing to hold open houses right now.
But if they do, the NAR told members to be sure guests inside the home stay at least 6 feet apart and require potential buyers to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer immediately when entering and to remove their shoes.
If the shutdown of the economy continues, analysts nationwide fear a housing market collapse. It hasn’t happened yet in Citrus County and it is impossible to predict it will occur, said Rob Tessmer Jr., vice president and broker-associate with Coldwell Banker Investors Realty of Citrus County.
So far, he’s not had sellers take their home off the market.
“Sellers still generally want to ride it out,” he said.
But he has seen some buyers cancelling or rescheduling viewing appointments.
Tessmer said his biggest fear is what will happen to the economy and the housing market once the coronavirus crisis passes.
“If you stop the ability for people to buy and sell houses, that’s going to cripple the market even further,” he said.
Fortunately, technology exists so buyers and sellers can reduce one-on-one contact, he said. People can sign documents online and agents can walk through a home with a camera and do face-time showing for clients.
“It’s absolutely possible to keep buying and selling homes,” he said. “It’s just that we have to find a way to avoid exposing people to each other. If the mandate right now is to stay socially distant, we can accomplish that.”
Meanwhile, Florida Realtors this week released February data for single-family homes. The numbers reflect pre-coronavirus concerns.
• Closed sales of existing single-family homes were 252, up from 234 last year.
• The median sales price was $175,000, up 9.8% from $159,900 a year earlier.
• Active inventory home listings were 996, down 27.5% from last year’s 1,373.
“We started out this year with a 13.6% increase in sales over the previous January,” said Jeanne Pickrel, president of the Realtors Association of Citrus County. “This quarter should be a good one. The only thing that was slowing our market down was the low inventory.”
Pickrel said March has slowed down to a normal pace.
“Since the first of the month, we have had a total of 211 closed sales and 257 contracts pending,” she said.