Tiny Virus, Big Changes
A microscopic virus has wrought huge changes in our lives over the past few weeks. Thanks to COVID-19, our schedules, entertainment choices, and family dynamics have morphed quickly. Scheduled events have either been cancelled or placed in limbo for the foreseeable future.
Many of us are asking lots of questions, most of which don't yet have a definitive answer. When will travel bans be lifted? When will we be able to gather with our friends? How long will it be before we can eat out again? Which restaurants will re-open for business-as-usual? Which businesses won't survive?
The questions we are asking are, "How will COVID-19 affect our local real estate market? How different will the post-virus market be from the market going into COVID-19?"
Greenville, SC Real Estate Before the Virus
Real estate in the Greater Greenville market has been robust. Calendar year 2019 ended with our market still favoring sellers, except for people selling a home priced above $300,000. Homes priced under $200,000 moved especially quickly.
Before COVID-19, people listing their home could expect to receive about 98% of their asking price. In certain areas relatively inexpensive homes sold, literally, overnight, often for more than the asking price. Most homes sold within 60 days, well below the national average.
Current Local Market Reactions to COVID-19
It's too soon yet to have hard data to say how the Greater Greenville, SC real estate market is responding as a whole. Here's what we're seen firsthand and been told by others working in our market.
Some buyers are anxious to buy now.
We have buyers who were finishing the pre-approval process just when the virus tremor hit. These folks are pressing forward quickly, trying to get into a home soon. One aspect encouraging folks like this to purchase quickly is the fact that interest rates remain low. They want to act before that changes. We suspect, too, that some buyers want to purchase quickly to avoid not being able to purchase if COVID-19 affects their employment situation.
Some sellers are equally anxious to sell now.
Our clients are concerned that the aftermath of COVID-19 is going to include a soft real estate market that favors buyers. They want to sell now while the market here is strong.
Lenders have already raised the credit score requirements for buyers seeking financing.
One lender told us that a few weeks ago they would consider someone with a credit score as low as 580 to 600. Now, a score below 660 won't cut it at all with some lenders, and 680 is the low score for people without some serious mitigating factors.
Closings are tricky and are taking longer.
Closing attorney offices are operating with skeleton crews. Some county offices are closed. Access to records is restricted. All of these factors combine to slow the closing process down. Before COVID-19, the average number of days to closing in our area was 45. Now it's likely closer to 60, unless it's a cash deal.
Virtual showings and video showings are increasingly popular.
Virtual and video options allow buyers to tour a home without entering it. Sellers don't have to worry about the possibility of contagion entering the front door with prospective buyers. The downside is that the even a great video option isn't quite the same as really being there.
What the Future Holds for Greater Greenville Real Estate
This would be a handy time to be able to see into the future. It would be so much easier to offer clients valuable advice, to help them make wise decisions. Since we can't see beyond today, we will simply state the obvious--the coronavirus pandemic has added a wrinkle to the housing market that even the savviest of analysts didn't see coming. In the weeks and months ahead, we'll have to adapt quickly to the changes in order to provide the knowledge and assistance that our clients need.