Residential real estate professionals in Texas expect the state's housing market to remain resilient, despite any drop-offs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In February, sales of existing homes in Texas notched their eighth month of growth. But home showings across the state have tapered off in the wake of coronavirus concerns and restrictions. As of March 29, home showings in Texas were down 55 percent compared with their 2020 peak and with the same time in 2019, according to ShowingTime.com.
“The economic and public health response to the novel coronavirus will drastically affect housing market activity in coming months,” James Gaines, chief economist at Texas A&M University’s Real Estate Center, says in a March 20 release.
In February, the Houston home market registered its eighth consecutive month of growth in home sales. And while that streak might be broken, all, apparently, is not lost.
In a release, Ted Jones, chief economist at Stewart Title, expects “no measurable impact from coronavirus on Houston real estate.” He bases that perspective on an analysis of how the SARS and swine flu outbreaks and the 9/11 terrorist attacks affected the Houston housing market.
Paige Martin, leader of the Houston Properties Team at Keller Williams Realty, says that based on her monitoring of the real estate markets in China and Hong Kong — both of which were hit earlier by the virus than the U.S. was — a big decline in homebuying and home-selling activity happened initially, followed by a quick but so far limited recovery.
“In Houston, I think we’ll see a massive drop in volume for the short term,” Martin says, “but the length and the tenor of the bounce-back will very much depend on the government stimulus.”
“The housing market is absolutely still open for business,” says Romeo Manzanilla, 2020 president of the Austin Board of Realtors, “but the business of real estate is evolving like we all are through this experience.”
Across the state, real estate agents are responding to the changing environment by switching to virtual tours and online meetings. DFW broker Taylor Walcik points out that buyers are still hunting for homes, but they’ve largely shifted their searches to video tours and other online tools.
For some potential buyers, interest in the home market has waned. A March survey of 2,900 North American visitors to the website of home marketplace Point2 Homes found that 35 percent had stopped actively searching for a home until the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said their No. 1 worry was not being financially stable enough to afford a home.
Despite coronavirus-related setbacks, real estate professionals are optimistic about the long-term prospects for the home market.
“There is always a demand for homes, even if people are more cautious right now, and such low interest rates give buyers even greater capacity to purchase,” says Kim Bragman, 2020 chairwoman of the San Antonio Board of Realtors. “Even in the midst of the disruptions our economy is facing, we are still seeing many people looking to buy and sell property, and we are still here to help them through the process.”
“I think once we are in the clear and things return to normal, the buyers that would have purchased during the quarantine will still be in the market,” Walcik says. “I think we will see a surge in activity, and we will be playing catch-up and trying to get these buyers under contract for the remainder of 2020.”