What Does Reopening Mean for Real Estate?

What does the reopening of most of Oregon’s counties mean for real estate? Probably not a whole lot.

Real estate transactions have continued during this time because it’s possible to carry on the business and stay six feet apart, with many discussions happening over Zoom and documents being signed via digital signature.

We may start seeing more open houses, but with modifications such as prospective buyers calling or texting in advance to set up a specific time to come through, or only one or two parties being allowed inside the house at the same time.

The real estate market is most likely to be affected indirectly as more buyers go back to work, allowing them to qualify for home loans and also making them feel more confident that their job situation is secure.

We have seen a modest reduction in the total number of sales over the last month or so, but we have not seen a reduction in prices. This is because there remains a balance between the number of homes going on the market and the number of buyers for those homes. If anything, well priced, desirable homes have sold fairly quickly, even receiving multiple offers because of the inventory shortage. Now, we may see more homes coming on the market as the “hunker down” mentality starts to ease a bit, but it’s likely we’ll see a corresponding increase in buyers, too.

Is it possible that sellers in financial trouble will start flooding the market with lower priced homes? Maybe, but home owners are more highly represented in the group of people who can work from home, and even if they have suffered a job loss or furlough, they’ve been able to avail themselves of various forbearance options designed to keep them in their homes and avoid any repeat of the 2008 downturn.

One aspect of what we’re going through that may affect real estate once there is a vaccine and this is all over is: How do people feel about their current home now that they’ve spent so much time in it? Being stuck indoors, did they start noticing things they’d like to change, so they’ll be in the market to get a different home?

And what about working from home—will more companies decide it’s a good option for them, allowing them to save on the cost of renting office space? If that happens, it may change the types of homes people want. We may see builders paying more attention to including home office options. We may see more remodeling of homes to accommodate working from home. And of course, people may want just plain bigger homes so they can spread out more.

We could also see homeownership itself becoming more important to people as they seek the comfort and security of owning their own home that they can live in however they want, with a yard for a garden and space for everyone to do their own thing. Homeownership has always been highly valued by Americans, but that could increase even more.

All interesting questions. For now, though, the market remains healthy—please keep yourself healthy, too!