HOUSTON – (Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – A year ago, Covid fear was running high and many people were afraid to home-shop with a realty agent. But in the Spring of 2021, things have changed.
Home showings were up 41 percent in late April compared to the similar period of 2020, the Houston Association of Realtors reported. In a seven-day period ending April 26, some 49,314 home showings occurred.
“Showings continue non-stop!” says Neal Hamil, a realtor with Martha Turner Sotheby’s. “I’m even getting requests to show properties which are under contract from buyers who want to write back-up offers should something fall through! Our showing department at Sotheby’s is logging record numbers of showings daily.”
The Houston housing market sizzles with seemingly unstoppable velocity. Single-family homes sales were up 24 percent in March, from a year earlier. Home prices are surging. Many houses sell above asking price. It’s common for sellers to get multiple offers. And mortgage rates remain low.
So it makes sense that showings are skyrocketing. And it’s not just in Houston. The frenzy is happening across America.
“Despite double-digit price appreciation and declining inventory, the number of showings per listing has risen dramatically in many areas,” said Michael Lane, president of ShowingTime, a leading showing management and market stats technology provider for the residential real estate industry. “The nation saw two months of substantial declines in buyer traffic last year when the pandemic hit. We’ve now seen 10 consecutive months of year-over-year increases in showing activity. With more listings usually coming on the market in the spring, buyers should have a bigger pool to choose from and more opportunities to compete for listings.”
With the inventory of home listings so thin, if buyers see something they really like, it might be wise to make an offer with haste.
“Buyers can’t think too long about whether or not they want to see a home. Otherwise, it will be gone,” says Greenwood King Realtor Kristin Tillman.
“Showings are picked up significantly as have pendings and closings,” says Greenwood King Realtor Cathy Blum. “With low inventory, low interest rates and the fact that since Covid, the home has become more important than ever. Buyers are realizing that they need a work-from-home office and more space for outdoor enjoyment and space to perhaps even sometimes even social distance from their own families. After being cooped up for a full year and stuck at home, buyers are wanting more space.”
About a year ago, some buyers and sellers were reluctant to show or tour houses because they thought it might be possible to catch Covid from touching door knobs. The current science has discounted those fears.
“We worked straight through the pandemic, observing all the necessary protocols – because if you are going to ask people to shelter in place, they have to have a home to shelter in,” says Roger Martin, president of Roger Martin Properties in West University Place. “Then the Big Freeze hit, damaging many Houston homes and making a tight real estate market even tighter. Now we have more buyers than sellers. Showings and closings are happening fast – but the limiting factor on that trend is a lack of inventory. We are having multiple showings on well-placed well priced properties. Due to demand, property appraisals are hard to schedule quickly.”
“Following strict guidelines, I was still showing properties last year; even during the tightest lockdown period,” says Neal Hamil. “I did have a couple of sellers pull their listings off the market due to Covid fears; which is totally understandable.
Showing Equipment: Clorox Wipes, Hand Sanitizers and Extra Masks
“I traveled around with Clorox wipes, hand sanitizers and extra masks!”says Hamil. “People were definitely using extra caution. Everyone was extremely respectful. We had sellers turn on and off all lights; open and close all doors themselves so others wouldn’t have to touch anything. People were super cooperative. Realtors were considered essential workers so even though our offices were closed we were out doing what Realtors do. I was so impressed with the way in which everyone did their best. Still, we did do many virtual showings; some via FaceTime and some of those became sales. I think we all learned valuable lessons on how to work efficiently. Houstonians never cease to amaze me. The resilience and determination here is truly remarkable”
”COVID did change the showing environment for a while,” says Tillman. “Make no mistake, sellers still sold during COVID and buyers still bought. However, extra measures were taken to protect everyone. It worked. I had only one transaction where a buyer withdrew the offer due to contracting COVID. Thankfully, that buyer ended up purchasing the home”
‘We Require Buyers to Wear Masks When Entering Our Clients’ Homes’
“Even during Covid we were still showing homes,” says Blum. “During the first three months of Covid the showings were very slow, and we realtors got their first vacation ever. After about three months, showings picked up and Relators were busy showing again providing buyers with masks, gloves, hand sanitizers and shoe covers. We are still very cautious about Covid and are always requiring buyers to wear masks when entering our clients’ homes.”
“The inventory shortage has really proved hard for my FHA buyers,” says Realtor Trish Figueroa with eXp Realty in Houston and Arizona. “Sellers in this market just aren’t accepting many FHA offers with all the demands an FHA loan can require. Needless to say, this market is pushing our time homebuyers out of the market. I do hope it stabilizes soon as we need to be helping more first-time homebuyers.”
“In the wake of Covid-19, our Houston housing inventory is at a 13-year low, and the number of available properties declined 22% since 2020,” says JD Adamson, a Realtor with the Adamson Gibson team with Douglas Elliman. “Available properties for purchase are at their lowest point since 1999, in Houston. However, the news isn’t all grim for buyers. Interest rates are still competitively low. The release of a COVID-19 vaccination is rebuilding confidence in sellers to allow showings of their properties. As property repairs from Houston’s 2021 winter storm wrap up, we will see a spike in new-to-market inventory.
Showing Homes: An ‘Essential Service’
“Because the real estate industry was deemed “an essential service” in Houston during lockdown, our housing market fared much better than other cities across the nation,” says Adamson. “Moreover, the Houston housing market benefits from increased demand as significant players in the energy, technology, and financial industries look to make a move.
“Why Houston? The costs of conducting business are an integral component for companies relocating to Texas. Both smaller and large-scale companies often see a decline in payroll costs by relocating and sweetening the deal; there’s no state income tax in Texas.”
Census population estimates assert Texas gained approximately 374,000 residents between July 2019 and July 2020. Many new Texans migrate from California, where recent statistics reported a loss of residents for the first time in over 100 years. More people are moving to Texas than any other state in the nation.
April 28, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021
For more about Texas real estate, check out the book Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up by Ralph Bivins. Available on Amazon http://tiny.cc/4a2g6y
Photo Credit: By Ralph Bivins, Realty News Report Copyright 2021
File: Almost 50000 Home Showings Weekly in Hot Houston Market