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What in the world is going on in real estate right now...

Update: As of March 23rd, all real estate activities that take place in person (listing appointments, showings, open houses) are no longer allowed in PA. The only way to see a home is through images and virtual tours, where available. 

Last Thursday's announcement that all non-life-sustaining businesses should close in Pennsylvania was, likely necessary, but extremely upsetting to industries and small businesses across the state.

In the real estate world, the initial list suggested there would be no further buying, selling or leasing of real estate going forward.

However, we, I, am still here and my (virtual) doors are actually open.

Photo by Alexa Williams on Unsplash
(This is not how my home office looks. My home office is currently covered in 'washable' markers) 

The PA Association of Realtors (PAR) and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox and Roach have interpreted Gov. Wolf's orders to be mostly in terms of physical locations. So Fox and Roach offices are closed to agents and the public with the exception of limited settlements. It also means homes can still be listed and shown, with limited exposure. If possible, homes are shown virtually and all client meetings should take place over phone, email, video call or text.

Here's the breakdown of real estate practices as they currently stand:

These are still being allowed within physical locations but with a few changes. Only necessary parties may attend. That means a buyer's or listing agent may be asked to stay home and review with clients prior to settlement/virtually. All parties attending settlement will be in separate rooms. All settlement documents will be reviewed in advance of closing to save time.

Showings are still being allowed but all parties must agree they have zero symptoms, have not visited an area the CDC has flagged as a health risk, and social distancing and cleaning procedures will be practiced at all times.

Many agents are hosting virtual opens of homes on the weekends and for first looks, I highly suggest allowing your agent do a virtual tour.

Third Party Services 
The biggest hang up so far is getting other services finalized for settlements. Many townships are holding off on use and occupancy, or point of transfer, inspections for several weeks. Some inspectors are not conducting business as well for the time being. While most of this is still possible, many agents are allowing for an extension of time on these sale contingencies. So plan accordingly!

Another common question is what is happening with mortgages right now. 

From Jake Kolen, at Trident Mortgage, as of Friday, March 20th:

"Rates have been as low as they get with 30 year fixed conforming rates touching 3% with 0 pts last Monday morning, but have since seen the mortgage rate market predominantly trend higher with wild, intraday rate swings of up to 1/2%. Within this period of time, we have also seen the stock market lose 30% of it's value - a direct result of Covid 19.

The good news is that many home buyers and consumers through purchase and refinancing were able to take advantage of the low rate market we had been in and seen rather consistently over the last few weeks. For those that weren't able to, patience will be a virtue while the economy and markets regain their footing in hopes of stabilizing. Once stabilization occurs, there should be opportunity for rate movement back lower.

In the past two weeks:

-- The Fed lowered the Fed Funds rate twice - once by 1/2% and once by 1% in an attempt to protect the national banking system. This allows banks to borrower from the Fed and one another at a much less costly amount. This also has reduced Prime Rate by 1.50% during that time frame which will help homeowners with HELOC payments reduce their costs.

-- The Fed has re-initiated their Quantitative Easing program - they plan to buy $700 Billion of bonds - $500 Billion of Treasuries and $200 Billion of Mortgage Backed Securities. The MBS purchases in particular will help to keep mortgage rates lower than if the Fed was a non-participant.

For the coming weeks, rates will be a bit elevated - due to capacity issues, additional paper coming into the market to fund the Gov't stimulus program and general and ongoing uncertainty. That said, we find ourselves still in a historically low rate environment."

As always, please don't hesitate to reach out about any questions or concerns!


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