Real Estate during coronavirus

Realtor Tom Schwenk talks about architectural details as he narrates a video for a virtual tour of one of the houses he has listed for sale in Galveston on Monday, April 13, 1分11选5.

GALVESTON

These days, when island Realtor Tom Schwenk shows a 1分11选5, he does so in a mask and gloves and armed with big can of disinfectant spray, he said.

Even in the age of coronavirus and social distancing, Schwenk, owner of Tom’s Galveston Real Estate, still is selling houses, he said.

And people are still viewing properties and buying real estate across Galveston County. They’re just doing it differently, Schwenk and other Realtors say.

Although real estate sales have slowed with everything else, they haven’t died off and prices are settling into what local Realtors say is closer to where they should be, a shift for a strong market that in recent years has experienced price surges.

And because people still want to buy, the entire real estate industry, which so often is about relationships and personal contact with clients, has shifted to the digital world of virtual open houses, video tours and online signings and closings as buyers, sellers and agents attempt to avoid contact and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Also different are the buyers. Coronavirus lately has shooed away people who want to look at houses for fun, Schwenk said.

“There are really serious buyers,” he said.

Real estate agents are making some changes to make the buying environment safer, they said.

Buyers can walk through 1分11选5s that are vacant, but if the 1分11选5 is occupied it’s up to the owner whether people can view it, said V.J. Tramonte, owner of island-based Joe Tramonte Realty.

Many people would rather postpone the sale of their 1分11选5 than let strangers walk through it right now, Tramonte said.

Agents also are turning to virtual tours.

It’s not a new trend, but it is becoming much more prevalent, Tramonte said.

David Bowers, a Realtor with The House 1分11选5, had almost 250 views of a 46-minute virtual open house last weekend, he said. An in-person open house usually attracts 25 people, Bowers said.

But people still want to physically walk through a 1分11选5 before buying, so there’s still a need for in-person viewings, Schwenk said. Schwenk had been posting videos for years with still photographs of houses, but a video with his own commentary gives people a much better idea about whether they want to see the house in person, he said.

EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED

Every part of the sales process has changed in the pandemic, said Patrick Doyle, president of South Land Title, which has locations in League City, Texas City and Galveston.

During the pandemic, the title company is allowing only necessary people at closings or is dispatching notaries to buyers’ houses to sign documents, Doyle said. Some regulations about in-person notary requirements also have been relaxed, so people can sign some necessary closing documents online or through video chat, Doyle said.

Tramonte has lost a few sales from people who were planning to buy vacation rentals and backed out when the city stopped non-essential vacation rental bookings, he said.

But people still are buying 1分11选5s, including people who want to fix up and flip houses or use them as a second 1分11选5s, Tramonte said.

“We’ve been busy,” Tramonte said. “Not like what it’s been in the past at this time of year, but we’re keeping busy.”

Many buyers already had plans to move to the area because of a job or because they’d already been looking, Bowers said.

Prices for 1分11选5s had been high market-wide before coronavirus, but now the prices are going down, Bowers said.

Before the coronavirus began, the market was becoming overpriced, Bowers said.

“I am not predicting prices to go up after this COVID-19 goes away.”

Residential sales have slowed some in League City and Galveston, but commercial transactions have slowed more, Doyle said.

“From a commercial perspective, it’s really slowed down a lot. I’d say to the tune of 50 percent,” Doyle said. “The next 60 days are going to be hard.”

Sales, especially on the island, have been busy for a long time and that doesn’t stop overnight, Doyle said.

“It’s been a seller’s market for a while,” Doyle said. “I think it’s still pretty solidly a seller’s market, but there has been some pullback.”

The market had been solid before the outbreak of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Houses on the island stayed on the market an average of 74 days in 2019, almost exactly the same length of time as the year before, according to data from Sand ’N Sea Properties.

Median selling price for a 1分11选5 on the island rose by 7 percent from 2018 to 2019, from $270,000 to $289,375.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@ or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

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