Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Housing slides through hazardous virus conditions
Homes sales didn't hit the skids in April, just a patch of black ice, but everyone managed to keep it between the ditches.
Like black ice, the effects of the coronavirus on housing were invisible at the end of March, although we expected hazardous conditions. Like people who hit black ice, keep it together and live to tell about it, everybody slowed down, kept a deft hand on the wheel and drew on experience.
Sales were off 8.6% last month compared with April 2019, according to the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors: 1,470, down from 1,609 a year ago.
Sellers pulled back. New listings fell 13.4% in April compared with a year ago and 5.8% month to month.
Buyers, not so much. The average price was up 3.9%, at $227,681. The median price was up 4.6% at $196,655.
Those numbers are for Oklahoma City, Arcadia, Bethany, Blanchard, Choctaw, Deer Creek, Edmond, Harrah, Luther, Midwest City, Moore, Mustang, Newcastle, Nicoma Park, Norman, Piedmont, Tuttle, Warr Acres and Yukon.
Sales activity slowed over all, but not everywhere, and not for houses priced below $200,000. At entry level and modest buy-up level, real estate agents, home inspectors, buyers, sellers and others donned masks, soaked in sanitizer, masked up, and minded social distancing suggestions and requirements — and sold on.
"Business for me has been the same for all clients who have been steadily working with me since before COVID-19," said Nicole Hansen, an agent with Keller Williams Realty Elite, 5629 N Classen Blvd. "Real estate was considered an essential job so homes under construction continued and closed, as planned, and homes under contract continued through the process.
"Business slowed down in March/April in terms of inquiries from new buyers. I noticed a lull in Realtor requests as everyone was uncertain of their future employment and didn't want to make a move. During this time, sellers took their homes off the market, temporarily, to not have strangers in their houses and out of fear that they would sit."
Others reported seeing nearly normal sales activity. Melissa Barnett, of Keller Williams Realty Elite, said she has five closings scheduled this month and more next month.
Barnett said would-be sellers who are waiting to see how reopening businesses affects general attitudes are spending the time to improve their homes to make them stand out on the market whenever they decide to make a move toward selling.
Curb appeal could be more important than ever, whether observable by folks reluctant to get out of their car, or online. Alex Mason said he thinks simply refreshing the front flower beds helped him sell a house near Piedmont in less than two weeks. “It really improved the initial impression of the house,” he said.
Inside, new counters, flooring and paint can work wonders, Barnett said, noting: “It’s imperative to have everything looking its best in photos." Not only because photos can reveal flaws that can go unnoticed by the naked eye. "Because many people just want to move in without doing a lot of work,” she said.
With the housing inventory low — multiple offers and bidding wars are not uncommon at lower prices — buyers better be nimble and able.
"Be prepared to move quickly. We educate our buyers out of the gate to get their running shoes on and be ready to sign! In our business, anything priced right under $250,000 is going into multiple offers well over list price," said Denise Schroder, another agent with Keller Williams Realty Elite. (Unplanned: They just returned my messages.)
Schroder had a caution for sellers: "Don't entertain any lowball offers yet. We have gotten many calls from agents just feeling us out on how negotiable the sellers are. What they really mean is how desperate or your sellers and can my buyers steal the house?"
Trevor Sipes, broker/owner of ShowOKC Real Estate, had another caution for sellers: "Don't be greedy. We still have to deal with appraisers."
In other words, if a negotiated price goes higher than the appraisal, the lender won't go for it and the sale will fall apart. That's a good thing if it saves the buyer from paying more for a house than it's worth, but it can sure mess up chains of events and plans for everybody.