PLYMOUTH — The coronavirus has taken a bite out of a number of industries, as retailers, restaurants and tourist destinations feel the staggering impact of partial and full closures in the interests of social distancing.
But what has happened to the real estate market in the past few weeks? And what’s going to happen in the months ahead?
While some have chosen to pull their homes from the market, hoping to wait out the storm, South Shore Realtors President Mary D’Ambra said, on the whole, buying and selling continues.
“We have already been a low inventory, competitive market,” D’Ambra said. “If you’re a buyer, there’s not enough inventory. That was last year and it has continued into this year. Why? I think that there’s not enough housing. We need more housing in this area. And so, if you put a house on the market and it’s a nice cape in good condition in a moderate price range, there are so many buyers looking for a house like that. But only one can buy it.”
Prices won’t likely increase dramatically as some have predicted, at least not in this region, she added.
“I don’t see that changing,” she said. “All those buyers are still going to be out there. That’s what sets the price. The demand is high and the supply is low. It’s no different. There’s a limit to what a buyer can pay based on what they’re making.”
With some losing their jobs in the crisis, however, it’s not yet clear if “what a buyer can pay” will change. But D’Ambra noted that the government is going to offer different stimulus to help people.
In the meantime, those open houses are hard to come by as Realtors like D’Ambra think twice about having the public roam through a listing. Virtual tours are available, but she acknowledged that many buyers need to see the home first, not just virtually see it.
New construction still needs occupancy certificates, and, if Town Hall is closed, that can be a problem. Director of Planning and Development Lee Hartmann said the town is doing everything it can to keep these permitting processes going in the wake of the pandemic.
The Registry of Deeds is open for business, but the public can’t enter the building, D’Ambra added. So, deeds are being e-filed online or clients’ attorneys are doing so. Sometimes closings happen in various cars, as the buyer and seller and attorneys pass paperwork between cars.
“We thankfully have a lot of technology at our disposal so we can talk to our clients and contact them while social distancing,” she added.
Work-arounds for appraisals involve driving by homes and using photos provided by MLS and the agent, D’Ambra added.
Everything and everyone involved in real estate, from home inspectors, appraisers, lenders, attorneys, the Registry of Deeds and Realtors themselves — everyone is working to figure out ways around the restrictions. The governor has even allowed temporary waivers of fire department inspections of fire and carbon dioxide detectors in homes during the social distancing directives.
“I have to say, for every problem cropping up, everybody is figuring out solutions,” D’Ambra added.