How is COVID-19 affecting real estate in Wisconsin?

As part of Governor Evers “Safer At Home” orders, real estate services including: lending, sales, appraisal, property management, and construction have been deemed essential. I’m not sure everything we do is essential during this time, but I fully agree that some of it is absolutely essentially to prevent foreclosures, homelessness, and economic disparity.

While we continue to try to keep operating, COVID-19 has certainly changed things. Normally, we’d be ramping up to a busy Spring market with many listings hitting the market in Dane County every day. Up until last week (3/15/20), it seemed some sellers were in a hurry to list their homes, while buyers were scrambling to get something under contract prior to the Safer At Home restrictions.

At this point, numerous sellers have opted to hold off on listing their homes while a few with homes actively on the market have halted all showings. If selling is not a necessity and you are still living in your home, holding off is probably a wise move to minimize risk of spreading the virus. Some buyers have also pulled back on their searches, while other serious buyers are still vigorously shopping and writing offers. We had 4 offers on a listing last week (3/22/20). Although, this was a vacant house that people were able to walk thru anytime without agents at the property (with anti-bacterial wipes available at the door). I certainly expect that sales will be negatively impacted through Spring and part of Summer. With a continued inventory shortage, properties will continue to sell; there may even continue to be bidding wars. Although, buyers may have a better shot at a deal with less competition.

As we continue to show homes (on a more limited basis) and list homes, our practices have certainly changed. Most real estate brokerages are no longer allowing walk-ins, as many have closed their office doors. Showingtime (our showing scheduling service) is now blocking any overlapping showings to prevent multiple buyers from being in the house at one time. We are now carrying anti-bacterial wipes with us to use on doorknobs, lockboxes, light switches, etc. We are offering Zoom or Skype meetings with buyer clients so that they don’t even have to show up at the house. Or if a buyer wants to look at a house in person we follow the 6’ social distancing rules, and ask that you don’t bring the whole family (Grandma and Grandpa don’t need to see every house you look at). With listings we plan to include virtual tours or 3d scans on every listing for the remainder of the year. This helps buyers see more of the home and prevents unnecessary in person tours, unless the buyer is really serious.

Lenders, inspectors, title companies, and appraisers are continuing to operate as well. The pace at which things are moving may be slowed down as lenders and underwriters are trying to work from home. However, I think the flood of refinance applications due to low rates is probably slowing them down more than COVID-19. Some loan programs are beginning to allow drive-by (or exterior only) appraisals so that appraisers don’t have to enter an occupied home. Additionally, title companies are now working on setting up virtual closings with digital notaries.

The bottom line is the novel Corona Virus has much of the country on lock down, and it is a scary weird situation that we have never experienced. Everybody should be do everything in their control to prevent the spread. I don’t think anybody can accurately predict the outcome at this point. We are doing our best adapt to the everchanging environment and to serve or clients, while respectfully helping prevent the spread. Thankfully we have the technology and tools to keep our business operating and productive. If you have a need to buy or sell, don’t hesitate to reach out, even in these crazy times!

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