HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – The Texas real estate industry went from the freezer to a broiling oven as Winter Storm Uri shut down sales activity for almost a week. After that, Realtors worked overtime to catch up.
“Showings across Texas are increasing right now with the same trajectory as they declined,” said Michael Lane, president of ShowingTime, a national platform for managing home shopping appointments. “During a 10-day stretch beginning on February 10th, we saw showing traffic drop 64.2 percent. On February 20 activity started returning to normal.”
Millions of Texans were without power for days. Water pipes froze and burst during the storm, damaging thousands of homes.
“I spoke with many agents who would walk into vacant listings that were absolutely destroyed. Luckily, most of my sellers’ and buyers’ homes were not affected,” said Ashley Eoff with Keller Williams in Houston A few clients had minor pipe breaks, but nothing catastrophic to their properties. Showings were cancelled for several days while they put their homes back in order and checked for what damage had occurred. I had three contracts pending and they all are still being sold. A few closings have been delayed due to the lending process and re-inspection process required by appraisers.“
Houston’s Big Bounce Back Week
In Houston, on a week impacted by the winter storm, only 696 transactions were closed for the week ending Feb. 22. That jumped to 2,796 closings the following week, according to the Weekly Activity Report published by the Houston Association of Realtors. The number of new listings also doubled in the rebound week, the association reported.
Another headache: the carnage of dead plantings and the property photos on the MLS. “Unfortunately, every home I have walked into the landscaping is destroyed and dead. Photography will be impacted unless the entire property under goes new landscaping,” Eoff said.
During the days without power, the industry still found ways to close some sales.
Compass agent Dee Dee Guggenheim Howes closed several huge deals in a Cadillac Escalade during the storm.
“We set up an office in my husband’s Escalade and once his office had power, we went downtown,” says Guggenheim Howes. “We closed several deals in his Escalade. The kids were bored, they went out there and gamed, and we were charging our phones and laptops. He’s a commercial Realtor with Savills and they have beautiful new offices downtown.”
‘If the landscape is dead, photographers can only do so much.’
“Because of the push in the market last year, everyone who didn’t move last year is now thinking they should get their homes ready to sell,” Guggenheim Howes said. “Those who allowed us to video and photograph before the storm were lucky. I had five new calls in one week, with sellers asking, ‘Come list my house.’ If the landscape is dead, photographers can only do so much.”
With the uncertainty of the pandemic, Guggenheim Howes noticed buyers wondering if their kids and grandkids may be living with them. “As they prepared to hunker down, many people came out of high-rises, skipped over townhouses and went straight to single family homes. Now with vaccinations and influx of buyers from New York and California, the high-rises and mid-rises are going quickly,” she says.
Title Company’s Mercedes Van with a Fax Machine
“One of the title companies we use, Fidelity Title, has a really nice outfitted Mercedes Sprinter van with Wi-Fi, scanner, fax and printer, so we were able to do funding from the van,” says Amanda Anhorn with Greenwood King. “They were able to bring the closing to my seller. They hop in the big club chairs, sign the paperwork and go back in to their work from home office.”
Some closings have been pushed to April. “I have a luxury townhome in the Medical Center that’s being bought by a woman who is currently renting,” says Lisa Barnes of Coldwell Banker. “That closing was set for March 23 and has now moved into the next month. Her ceiling in her rental had damage in due to a leak, so she has to move out and move elsewhere for the interim. The people who are in the townhouse are buying a brand-new single-family home and the builder does not have it ready- the plumbers are busy elsewhere. The builder has said he needs two more weeks.”
“It’s a domino effect, always when someone is selling a home, he or she is moving into another home,” says Barnes. “I have one deal where my clients are buying new construction and that new one now needed some plumbing addressed, so that closing is pushed back two weeks and the closing of the buyer is also pushed back because the sellers have no place to go.”
Home sales in Texas – and in most major cities – racked up record sales in 2020. That trend, aided with the tail winds of low interest rates, is continuing in 2021.
“Texans have shown remarkable resilience and have returned to their normal lives after dealing with so many hardships brought on by the storm,” said Lane, the ShowingTime president. “They’ve overcome weather- and pandemic-related obstacles and remain optimistic about the state’s future.”
Texas’s surge in showing activity comes as buyer demand continues to boom nationwide, ShowingTime reported. January marked the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year growth in showing activity throughout the country, as the nation saw a 55.1 percent increase in buyer foot traffic.”
Texas Realtors say 393,615 homes were sold in the Lone Star State in 2020, the highest annual total in the history of Texas real estate.
March 3, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021
File: After Storm, Realty Surges in Huge Texas Rebound