If You’re Surviving Covid-19 Financially, This May Be a Good Time to Buy or Sell

Despite the best efforts of state, local and federal governments, there will surely be people who are suffering financial hardship and have had to put their dreams of homeownership on hold.  I wish them well as they dig themselves out of this terrible situation.

For those who are surviving Covid-19, however, and don’t get sick from it in the coming months, the continued record-low interest rates are making home purchase more attractive and more affordable.

As you’ve no doubt heard, the Federal Reserve has plunged hard into softening the impact of the virus and its attendant effects on the economy by reducing the Fed Funds interest rate used by banks to near zero. While this rate is unrelated to mortgage rates, we are also seeing those rates staying below 4% and approaching 3%, which is propping up the real estate market in a big way.

People who can afford to buy a home and have the income to qualify for a mortgage are getting off the fence. This is evident from how many homes are going under contract quickly, often with competitive bidding.

In the first 10 days of May, there were 2,306 homes within 25 miles of the State Capitol entered on Denver’s MLS. 615 of them were under contract by May 10th. Another 171 homes were entered as “Coming Soon” as of this Tuesday.

May 5-12 Stats within 25 miles of State Capitol

While that’s less than the first 10 days of May 2019, when 3,348 homes were entered on the MLS and 795 of them went under contract by May 10, it’s still an impressive amount of activity, and is probably due in part to the excellent mortgage situation.

Another factor that will stimulate purchasing among the wealthy is that the stock market has recovered more than half of its early losses due to the virus. That makes it more likely that investors would be willing to liquidate stocks to finance a cash purchase of real estate.

In April 2019, about 48% of homes sold at or above their asking price, and 46% of them sold in a week or less. This year’s performance is better. Of the homes that closed during April 2020, about 58% sold at or above their asking price, and about 62% sold in a week or less. Those statistics tell me that we have a pretty active sellers market, which stands in contrast to the gloomy economic situation caused by Covid-19.

It’s hard to believe that the real estate market will tank later this year if it is not tanking already.

I’m seeing that dynamic myself. As of this writing, all my own listings are either under contract or closed, including the Wheat Ridge home featured as “coming soon” a couple weeks ago.  That $550,000 brick ranch was only listed as “active” on the MLS last Tuesday, and showings didn’t begin until Saturday, but our first offer came in on Sunday, and it was under contract at better than full price by Tuesday morning.

New Listings and Showings Surged Last Week After Governor Eased Showing Restrictions

By JIM SMITH, Realtor(r)

Sellers who had been holding back during most of April put their homes on the market during the calendar week ending Saturday, May 2nd. And showings of listings also surged.

Listing Activity – 7 Days ending 5/6/20 within 25 miles of the Colorado State Capitol

Altogether, 1,648 homes within 25 miles of the State Capitol were listed on Denver’s MLS between Sunday, April 26th and Saturday, May 2nd. That’s pretty close to the 1,885 number entered on the MLS during the same 7-day period in 2019, and more than double the 819 homes listed two weeks earlier. (During the week of April 19th to 25th, only 993 homes were entered on the MLS.)

Of those 1,648 listings, 29 were withdrawn from the MLS by week’s end for unknown reasons, and 10 were entered as “sold” without ever being active. That still left 1,609 new active listings, 511 of which were already under contract by Tuesday noon. That’s significantly above the 405 homes that went under contract by the end of the same period last year.

By the deadline for this column at noon on Tuesday, 233 additional listings had been entered as “active” on Denver’s MLS. 

Not included in the 1,648 number are 176 listings that were entered on the MLS as “coming soon,” a status that didn’t exist until this year. One of those was my $550,000 listing at 2950 Jay St. in Wheat Ridge. It went “active” this week. Showings begin Saturday, May 9th.  There are more pix on the website.

So, while we can hardly say life is “back to normal,” the real estate business is certainly showing renewed signs of life. Frankly, I’m surprised at the size of this surge in listings and signed contracts.

Like most agents, I have many buyers who have given me their search criteria, and the MLS automatically sends them alerts of homes matching those criteria as they are entered on the MLS. In my case, I have nearly a hundred such email alerts in effect. Since Gov. Polis replaced “stay-at-home” with “safer-at-home,” which allows in-person showings to resume, I have seen a spike in the number of buyers clicking on the links for listings sent to them.  My listing at 1957 S. Taft Street in Lakewood saw five showings set on May 1st and 2nd alone.  With this week’s price reduction, I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes under contract quickly.

Listing agents are expected to take extra precautions to protect the health of both buyers and sellers under the “safer-at-home” guidelines. For example, there can be no overlapping showings, and only 3 persons (typically two buyers and their agent) are allowed in a listing at one time. Our showing service, ShowingTime, is enforcing these rules by not allowing overlapping showings to be set.

As a listing agent, it is my responsibility to sanitize a home between showings, which I do by using Clorox wipes on all hard surfaces that visitors might touch, such as door handles and light switches. I leave the lights on and most doors, including closet doors, open or ajar, so that touching them is minimized. If the home is not vacant, sellers can perform these safety functions themselves.

Buyers and their clients are asked to wear face masks and gloves and to wear booties, which they’re asked to take with them when they leave. By following these guidelines, agents and their clients can feel as safe as, or safer than, for example, at a supermarket.

The Number of New Listings Remains Low, But They’re Selling Fast

Each week I have been checking the MLS to see how many homes are being listed afresh and how many are going under contract as the Covid-19 stay-at-home order remains in place.

In last week’s column I reported that during the 7-day period from Sunday April 5th to Saturday April 11th, a total of 819 homes within 25 miles of downtown Denver were entered on Denver’s MLS, This past week — from Sunday April 12th to Saturday April 18th — that number dropped slightly to 799.  Of those, 23 had already been sold privately, compared to 22 the previous week, so there were only 776 new active listings last week. Amazingly, 114 of those went under contract by Saturday, compared to 124 the previous week, despite stricter enforcement of the “no-showings” guidance from the Division of Real Estate. Another 74 of those new listings went under contract by Tuesday evening, April 21st.

Bottom line?  The roughly 50% drop in listings from previous years which we saw last week has become the “new normal” for the current situation in which in-person showings are not allowed until a buyer has signed a contract to buy a home.

This is actually a great time to list your home! The fact that so many buyers are still submitting offers without even seeing a home in person should inspire more sellers to offer their homes for sale. Just be sure you do it with a narrated video tour like we do for all Golden Real Estate listings.

Homes Are Still Selling

Each week I have been checking the MLS to see how many homes are being listed and how many are going under contract as the Covid-19 stay-at-home order remains in place.

For the weeks of March 22nd and March 29th, the market showed surprising resilience, with statistics comparable to prior years.  Now let’s look at the statistics for last week.

During the 7-day period from Sunday April 5th to Saturday April 11th, a total of 819 homes were entered on Denver’s MLS, REcolorado, within 25 miles of downtown Denver. Of those, 22 had already been sold privately, so there were only 797 new active listings. Of those, 133 were already under contract by Saturday.  A total of 25 were immediately withdrawn or expired, many of them likely because of the no-showings rule, which was issued that Monday.

This is a huge drop from the same 7-day period in 2019, when there were 1,631 new active listings, 227 of which had gone under contract by the end of the same 7-day period. 

In 2018, the numbers were similar, with 1,588 new active listings, 579 of which went under contract within the same 7-day period.

In 2017, the numbers were also similar, with 1,633 new active listings, 663 of which were under contract by the end of the same 7-day period. 

The numbers were equally impressive in 2016.

Bottom line? We are finally seeing about a 50% decline in new listings, but many of them are still selling quickly. Sellers who do list their homes may benefit from the lack of competition.

Newspaper Headline Gave a Distorted Picture of Real Estate Market Under Covid-19

“Hundreds of sellers pull their homes off market,” read the lead headline on the Business page of last Friday’s Denver Post, but the first sentence of the article noted that “thousands [of sellers] went the other way, rushing to list their homes before a major downturn made a sale tougher to achieve.”

The reporter was referring to March statistics quoted by the chair of the market trends committee of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors.

Let’s look at the actual numbers. Yes, 184 listings that were entered during the month of March were “expired” on the MLS by month’s end. Another 443 listings were “withdrawn,” which means the listing agreement is still in effect, but it is not displayed on the MLS until it is made “active” again.

However, 3,525 listings entered last month are already under contract as I write this on April 5th, and another 467 listings have already closed.  Of the ones that closed, 179 were sold before being entered on the MLS, and of the 308 that were exposed to MLS users as active and had already closed by this past weekend, only 13 took longer than a week to go under contract.

 As I write this on April 5th, there are still 4,289 listings that were entered on the MLS during March and are still active.

So, yes, 184 sellers decided not to sell during March, but 8,122 sellers made their homes active on REcolorado during March and did not withdraw or expire them. Another 443 sellers kept their listing agreement active but without exposure on the MLS.  Presumably their listing agents can still sell those listings privately, perhaps keeping their entire commission instead of having to share it with a buyer’s agent.

So the headline was sort of accurate.

By the way, unless the practice has changed since I was a reporter at the Washington Post and then a headline writer at the New York Post, reporters have no say in the headlines that appear above their articles. Instead, a headline writer on the “copy desk” reads the article briefly and writes a headline that fits the assigned character count. As a result, sometimes the headline doesn’t truly reflect the gist of the article, and that may be the case with last Friday’s article.

From the New York Post, I went on to publish several community newspapers in New York City and instructed my reporters to write their own headlines, not knowing what the character count had to be, so the editor had the reporter’s headline as a guide as he rewrote it to fit. 

Getting back to real estate — sorry, I had to vent! — here are the numbers from March 2019:

A total of 7,968 listings were entered as “active” during March 2019, which is fewer than this year, even if you include the 70 listings that were withdrawn by month’s end.  So, not only was the headline misleading, but this March showed increased activity over March 2019.

The fact that 70 listings were expired prematurely in a “normal” month suggests that not all 184 expired listings this year should be attributed to Covid-19.

The market was “hotter” last year, in that over 400 of that month’s listings went under contract in less than 7 days compared to just under 300 this March.

I invite any and all reporters writing about real estate statistics to let me fact check their conclusions prior to publication. And suggest your own headlines!

Can you tell that I enjoy statistical analysis?

Here’s a Follow-up to My Analysis Last Week of the Denver Real Estate Market for March 22 to 28

In last week’s column (which you can read below), I showed how the market continued to be active from March 22nd to 28nd, despite the growing impact of Covid-19 and imposition of a stay-at-home order.

It seems appropriate for me to do a similar analysis of the following week which ended last Saturday, April 4th.

This time I limited the stats to listings on REcolorado that were within a 20-mile radius of the state capitol, since our MLS includes many far-flung listings.

What I found is that between March 29th and April 4th, there were 1,136 new listings, 884 of which were still active on Monday, April 6th. 207 of them went under contract by week’s end, and 19 were withdrawn or expired.

This compares to 1,651 new listings during the same 7 days in 2019, of which 329 were under contract by April 6th of that year. Only 4 listings were expired or withdrawn immediately.

Since those numbers were about 50% higher than this year, I analyzed the same 7-day periods in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and was surprised to see that last year was an anomaly. During the same 7 days of all three prior years, the number of new listings was roughly the same as this year, although the number of quick contracts was much higher, as you’d expect from the stronger seller’s market that we were experiencing during those years.

In 2018, there were 1,192 new listings during the same 7-day period, 51 of which were entered as already sold. Of the “active” listings, 290 were under contract within that 7-day period and 4 were expired.

In 2017, there were 1,161 new listings during the same 7-day period, 58 of which were entered as sold. Of the “active” listings, 413 were under contract within the same 7 days, and 3 were expired immediately.

In 2016, 1,285 new listings were entered during the same 7-day period, 50 of which were entered as sold. Of the “active” listings, 392 were under contract during that 7-day period, and 7 were expired immediately.

Undoubtedly some sellers kept their homes off the MLS this year because of Covid-19, but still a lot of homes were made active this year, comparable to 3 of the past 4 years for that period. Listings are not going under contract nearly as fast, but it’s still impressive how many of them are selling quickly. Sellers should not shy away from listing their homes for sale at this time.

The Real Estate Market Is Still Active, Meeting the Needs of Both Buyers and Sellers

The Denver real estate market, based on my own analysis of REcolorado listings, showed continued strength last week, despite the imposition of a statewide stay-at-home order by Gov. Jared Polis that Tuesday.

To my surprise, despite the growing COVID-19 threat with all its expected economic impacts, a total of 1,799 listings went “active” on REcolorado last week — that is, between Sunday the 22nd and Saturday the 28th.

Although 53 of those new listings were taken off the market the same week — likely because of the stay-at-home order — and 24 of them were entered as “sold” without ever being active, that left 1,722 new listings on the market, and 387 or 22.5% of them were under contract by week’s end. That does not sound to me like a real estate market that is stalling because of the COVID-19 virus. 

It makes me wonder about those 53 listings that were pulled off the MLS because of the stay-at-home order. How many of them would have been under contract by now had the sellers and their listing agents not been overly cautious?

The homes that went under contract within their first week on the MLS ranged from a 2-bedroom, 1-bath condo for $100,000 in the Windsor Gardens senior community south of Lowry to a 4-bedroom, 4-bath home for $1.3 million in the foothills northwest of Boulder. The median price of those homes was $425,000.

To see how last week compared to “normal,” I researched the listings that were first entered on REcolorado during the same seven days in 2019.

Surprisingly, slightly fewer homes were entered on Denver’s MLS during the same 7 days a year ago — 1,727.  Of those, only 12 were taken off the MLS that same week. Another 73 were entered as “sold” that week. Of the remaining 1,642 listings, 670 or 40.8% went under contract within a week. That’s much higher than the 22.5% this year, but consistent with the slowing of the market which we saw before the advent of the virus. Those 670 listings which went under contract within 7 days last year ranged from a $95,000 condo in Aurora to a $1.5 million dollar 6-bedroom home in South Boulder. The median listing price was $395,000.

As you might guess, I was concerned about whether the new Lakewood ranch listed by me last Wednesday would get any showings, since showings didn’t begin until Friday, three days after Gov. Polis instituted the stay-at-home order. I needn’t have worried. We had five showings by Sunday, with one agent calling to ask if we had any offers yet because his buyer was interested in submitting an offer.

Also on Sunday, a buyer I hadn’t heard from in months called about seeing a new listing.  I set a showing for that afternoon, and the buyer is considering making an offer.

All in all, then, this market continues to surprise me. While it is slower in terms of activity, there are still many serious buyers willing and able to make offers on new listings.  Those buyers who are unable or afraid to make an offer, whether for economic or health reasons, are not calling us. Agents might appreciate the fact that only serious and qualified buyers are going to call about seeing homes for sale.

Meanwhile, sellers who want to sell should recognize that there are serious and qualified buyers out there and consider putting their home on the market. Just make sure you use an agent like us at Golden Real Estate who does narrated video tours of listings.