There are a lot of unknowns in the business world when it comes to COVID-19’s impact on various industries. Real estate is no exception. Maren Brisson-Kuester, president of nonprofit trade association NC REALTORS, discussed how the pandemic is affecting North Carolina’s real estate industry in a brief interview. The trade group has 48,000 members representing 46 local associations across the state. Brisson-Kuester, who received her real estate license in 2003, is chief operating officer and broker for HM Properties in Charlotte.
Have you seen a big impact from the COVID-19 pandemic on the real estate market in the state? Do you expect things to change drastically in the coming weeks?
In short, the impact from the pandemic on the real estate market depends on what part of the state you are in. With many different stay-at-home orders in communities across the state, in addition to the Governor’s order in Executive Order 121, the landscape for real estate professionals is very different. Some were deemed as an essential business activities with limited restrictions, while others had some business restrictions, and even some, like me in Mecklenburg County, whose business activities have been significantly impacted. The market was extremely strong going into the current situation with low inventory, competitive pricing, and generally low rates. In most cases, those factors will take some time to slow, but we have definitely seen our business make some important shifts. As far as what the future holds, it will be dependent upon how long many of these stay-at-home requirements remain and if any additional restrictions are put in place.
What has the state’s real estate market been like over the last year? Is it on par with the national market?
Overall, the state’s real estate market has been hot for the past year or so in most areas. With low inventories and competitive rates, it has definitely been a seller’s market with a significant amount of properties receiving multiple offers. Our total months of inventory have held statewide at between three and four months for the past year and we continue to see a significant number of pending sales each month (currently at roughly 28,000 in the month of March).
Nationally, we are seeing many of the same trends. Based on February data, both pending sales and existing home sale data is continuing to grow month over month. Contract signings grew 2.4% to 111.5 in February and year-over-year contract signings increased 9.4%. At the same time, total existing-home sales, increased 6.5% from January to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million in February. Additionally, for the eighth straight month, overall sales greatly increased year-over-year, up 7.2% from a year ago (5.38 million in February 2019).
How is the stay-at-home order affecting the way real estate agents conduct business? In what ways have real estate agents had to adjust the way they do business?
Depending on what orders are in place in the local area where a listing is located will govern what business activities a REALTOR® can conduct. From the beginning of this situation, we have continually advised our members to follow all health and safety guidance issued by local, state, and federal officials. Additionally, in the areas where real estate activity is allowed, NC REALTORS® has distributed best practices guidelines for members to provide additional information about how to conduct business in a manner which encourages social distancing and proper hygiene. These guidelines are available at ncrealtors.org/coronavirus/bestpractices. We have also been cultivating resources for members to assist them in conducting their business through remote or virtual platforms.
How do you think the spread of coronavirus will impact the real estate market in the long term?
The impact of the real estate market in the long term is certainly something that we are continuing to monitor. While optimistic projections from some economists project the market being able to make a quick rebound, we also are not able to project how long many of these stay-at-home orders will remain in place or what additional restrictions could be needed to further stall the spread of the virus.