I wanted to reach out to you today as I have been receiving many texts, calls and emails on how this outbreak maybe affecting the busy real estate season. This is a difficult time for all of us and the months ahead will bring uncertainty and challenges, of that, there is no doubt. This morning the owners of our five RE/MAX Elite offices had an online meeting with all of us to share the recent changes that the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) is advising based on social distancing, lowering the group threshold to 50 and best practices to protect our clients, ourselves and the public. We shared thoughts and ideas to keep working and helping our clients with their real estate needs but also to take action to keep everyone safe.
At the time the virus started to rear its ugly head there was a housing shortage. Meaning there were not enough homes for all the buyers that were currently looking. In the last month I have listed 3 homes with each one receiving multiple offers. The last home was two weeks ago, received double digit offers and a listing price that soared the final purchase to over $66,000 from listing price. That fact has not changed. We still are at low levels of inventory and in the last week I have seen homes come on the market and then sell in 3-5 days. I have three closing this week and while I know they are thankful, they are through the process, others are now very concerned what it may mean to them.
With that said in the last few days these are the most pressing questions I have been receiving regarding real estate. I hope I can shed a bit of light for you on what I know to be true currently.
What are interest rates, should I refinance?
Am I going to close on time?
Are open houses still going to be happening?
Should I wait to list or buy?
Sorry, this is long I will highlight the above question and try to answer the best I can with the information that is continually coming in.
Should I refinance now? I love how so many past clients and friends reach out to me with this question! While I am not a lender, I do try to read all the information coming in and what my preferred lenders are saying. When I am speaking to them I ask what they are seeing and what effects they are feeling. One of my preferred lenders, Duane Martin, at Caliber Home Loans indicated last week that they are inundated by those requesting refinancing. He mentioned that there may be a cap on refi’s right now and they may run out into 60 days to get completed. With so many wanting to refinance this is going to put a large strain on the lenders, title/escrow, appraisers and lending institutions. Home sales and purchase must be the priority.
So, to help answer questions, home mortgage interest rates did dip to a historically low rate and some were able to take advantage of this. They have since come back up to normal rates. This may change. They could go down again, rise or go higher. What you may be hearing more of right now are the interest rates for consumer debt being lowered. Another one of my lender colleagues, Jeff Tisdale from VIP Mortgage out of Tempe, AZ area states “The Fed Funds rate does NOT directly reflect in mortgage rates. The Fed rate impacts shorter term rates like credit cards, HELOCs, car loans, etc. Mortgage rates generally parallel the 10-year treasury bond. HOWEVER, there was a liquidity and volume issue due to the massive amounts of refinance volume, so rates spiked last week. We won’t know how this will affect mortgage rates until tomorrow and the coming days, weeks, etc. The industry can only take on so much at one time. Nobody truly knows what will happen, but I would expect continued volatility in the near future.
What is true is we are in uncharted territory and nobody knows what the short- or long-term effects of this will be.” Jeff goes on to say for anyone interested in refinancing or purchasing to get their application in with ALL supporting documents. The mortgage industry is beyond capacity right now and the complete files will get worked on first. The clients that need to be chased down for paperwork will suffer and wait.
Am I going to close on time? Our team has several clients that are scheduled to close the end of the month. Will we close on time? That is our goal. I am telling all of my clients that we are working behind the scenes to keep up with, and make sure, we work together quickly with Escrow/title your lender, insurance, mortgagor and all the other moving parts involved with a real estate transaction This is our goal! If we make sure all is in order beforehand and you are quick and diligent about getting any last-minute documentation requested into them we should. If, however, the county shuts down and there is no one to complete the transfer and recording process this very likely will delay homes closings.
There is that wish again for a crystal ball!
Are open houses still going to be happening? Well that changed very quickly. As of this morning they were advising to not have open houses but you could do one with limiting people through a few at a time, taking safety precautions and letting your seller decide based on if the home was vacant or occupied. After speaking with a seller this morning and coming up with a plan for them and their needs it has since changed. The NWMLS stated this afternoon they are disabling the Open House and Broker feature until the end of the month. What does this mean? Essentially no open houses. The consumer real estate sites are fed from the NWMLS. All the information on open houses regarding days, times, information and updates feed to sites like Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin etc. If you go looking on Saturday morning for the open houses for the weekend you are not going to find any. I suppose there may be a rebel out there who puts up an open house sign in hopes that you are wandering aimlessly around and see their sign and say “Wow let’s go” but I doubt it.
Should I wait to list or buy? Of course, we have a huge concern for our clients many of whom we have been working with for months!
For sellers to get them to the point of selling its not always easy! If you have not sold a home you may not realize the time, energy, cost and all the prep work that goes into doing so. I have 2 sellers right now that I have been working with since September and one since August! We were going to be listing in April/May. So now what? We have some buyers and sellers that are moving on to their next adventure in life. Some are moving across country for jobs or family. Some are downsizing and some are looking for a different home to fit their family’s needs. There is so much thought that goes into buying or selling a home and our job is to direct them while keeping them moving forward to their goal. This service we provide to our clients prior to ever being compensated. Our advice, suggestions, referrals for contractors, lenders, timelines and helping them coordinate for their new home takes great thought, planning, experience and counseling. We want our clients to know that we will continue to do all we can to direct and guide them. If they have a job they have to be at here in Washington, or another state, then we move forward and help them buy or list their home when planned. If they are moving because they have a new home being built, and do not want 2 mortgages, or need to move to take care of a family member we move forward as planned the best way we can. For each client it’s going to be a different scenario.
When you’re selling a home exposure is key. The more potential buyers see your home and feel themselves living in it the more likely you will get an offer. If we are limited on showings, open houses, Brokers opens, advertising then it will affect the entire experience and days on market will be longer. That is a determination that each needs to make based on their future goals. If, by chance, your kids are now home with you and that idea of decluttering and packing while they were at school has now turned into home-schooling then well, we may have to re-adjust your goal.
For our buyers you may be looking on line but you need to see the home and feel how you would flow in it and make sure it meets your needs. This is very difficult to do without physically viewing and we want you to know that Britt and I will be available for private showings at this time, and as the needs arise, if the home allows it.
It will be okay and together we can do it! We need to go with the flow but flow we must. I feel the worst thing we can do is just freeze and not move forward. Yes, we may be hitting the pause button for a bit but, we must move forward.
Please remember during this time of uncertainty, I want you to know that we are thinking of you and will do whatever we can to support our clients and their goals. Yes, this outbreak is very scary, but we can’t let it dismantle our economy. Small businesses will suffer and there will be effects down the road that will affect us all. We need to be caring and do all we can to support/shop local.
Please don’t live in fear. Be smart, stay safe, stay healthy and keep in touch.
I would be happy to go into this deeper with anyone that has questions.
Feel free to reach out!
Jen Murrweiss and Britt Maltos