Semper Gumby: Always Flexible
With the days of the 2008 housing bubble burst still a painful memory, the real estate industry held our collective breath when COVID-19 struck. 2020 began with a flourishing housing market and, thanks to regulation changes over the last decade, was rooted in a stable lending foundation.
But who plans for a pandemic?
We watched as stay-at-home orders were issued, businesses shuttered, and unemployment numbers rose. By the end of March, home showings in Florida declined by 64% from the previous year. At that point, for just a moment, we allowed fear and doubt to creep in.
But only for a moment.
You see, the real estate industry is surprisingly resilient. We took a deep breath and adapted in ways that propelled us confidently into this new future.
Close collaboration with industry partners has allowed us to find solutions to issues proactively before they become problems. We're meeting clients where they are by offering physical search alternatives. Video calling has allowed us to connect with our clients on a more human level, while 3D virtual tours and live-stream open houses filled the showing void.
Eaton Realty's REALTORs, support staff, and the property management team are tirelessly working as demand far outpaces supply. "The people that were planning to buy this year are still buying." Rebecca Kelly, the Director of Sales, said. "What's more, with people spending more time at home these days, they expect those homes to meet more of their needs. When their needs aren't met, their next home is just a click away."
We aren't the only ones adapting. We've talked with title companies, vendors, and mortgage brokers and heard a common thread--they have never been busier. "Interest rates are so unbelievably low, it's almost like free money," said Bart Rice of The Rice Financial Group. "More importantly, those low interest rates are offering increased buying power, sustaining price points, and holding up the market." And while lenders have increased minimum credit scores from an average of 580 to 640, the lending market is still strong.
"If there has been one thing we have noticed during the pandemic, it's an increased need for flexibility," said Lynn Langowski from Foundation Title &Trust. Whereas before the pandemic, when closing packages were completed days before clients came to the closing table, day-of-closing employment and credit verifications are delaying those packages until just hours before closing appointments. Even with the last-minute verification requirements, lenders and title companies are still closing homes quickly, less than 30 days in some cases.
Without question, the last few months have offered uncertainty and sleepless nights for many. But they have also forced innovation to the forefront. All around us, we see resilience, creativity, and compassion. Employers launched work-from-home options that will change how people work post-pandemic, restaurants have tailored flexible dining experiences, and neighbors have fostered a renewed sense of community. At Eaton Realty, we're proud to contribute to this community and look forward to discovering new ways to continue growing and serving you.