The steady sunlight of spring helps make it the best season for home sales, and so far, even the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t seem to be derailing local real estate.

“Three weeks ago, I was frozen in fear,” said Brent Gardner, a local real estate agent. “I thought, ‘Oh, man, this is gonna be a bad spring.’ And I just haven’t seen it. I’ve just seen people being cautious but still proceeding.

“I’m pleasantly surprised with the amount of activity going on. It’s more than I expected,” he said.

As of March 25, there were 9,697 pending existing home sales in the state of Missouri, according to the National Association of Realtors. Those numbers do not include construction or commercial real estate. Of all pending home sales statewide, 493 are in Boone County.

“I thought it might just stop, just pause for a month,” Gardner said, “but it just hasn’t.”

And he doesn’t see that changing.

“I think everyone’s just kind of hunkered down but still creeping forward with what they’re doing,” he said.

The stay-at-home order issued by the city of Columbia considers real estate transactions essential. This includes appraisal, mortgage and title services, according to the order.

John Sebree, the CEO of Missouri Realtors, was working for Florida Realtors when the 2008 housing crisis halted the real estate market. He’s not convinced Missourians are in that same boat now.

“I think we’re in a very different place here,” he said. “I’m not seeing any similarities.”

“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there,” Sebree said, adding that job loss could lead to fewer prospective buyers.

But he added that mid-Missouri enjoys a more stable housing market than some other regions.

Going into April 2019, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage average in the U.S. was 4.08%, according to data from Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. On Thursday, that average was 3.33%.

Sebree also emphasized the importance of real estate agents following the guidelines set by the governor and local authorities.

Even in the age of social distancing, “there are other ways to have open houses,” he said.

Virtual tours have become vital to prospective home buyers, and Gardner said traditional open houses have all been canceled. Real estate websites like Zillow allow buyers to request a video tour of a home, and Gardner added that walking through a home virtually in real time with an agent is also a possibility.

“I’ve done them before, and if someone would ask for that, I would provide it,” he said. “I think most agents are willing to do that now.”

Sebree said he’s used FaceTime to communicate with clients in the past as well.

“I do like seeing people,” he added with a laugh.

Vanessa Schmidt is a physician in Columbia who’s buying a home and selling her current one. She said her experience with the real estate process has gone smoothly.

“It’s actually been pretty painless,” she said.

Schmidt said she created a virtual tour of the house she plans to sell, and she has stocked the front door with hand sanitizer and gloves for anyone who enters.

“Everybody needs to think in a new way now,” Sebree said, but local boards across the state are still working to ensure deals continue to close.

Tips for buyers

There are still hundreds of homes on the market in Boone County, and still more in surrounding counties.

“There are a lot of opportunities that will still be out there,” Sebree said.

Gardner said that verifying that the buyer and no one in the house for sale is sick, taking measures to not touch anything in the house and disinfecting surfaces in the house are all measures that make everyone more at ease throughout the process.

Among its online resources for real estate agents, Missouri Realtors has also released a showing flyer to be placed outside homes for sale that asks viewers not to enter the home if they can answer yes to a series of questions regarding symptoms, person-to-person contact and recent travel.

Tips for sellers

Despite adjustments because of COVID-19, selling your home this spring is still entirely on the table.

“There’s always someone wanting to move and change their circumstances,” Sebree said.

Through technology and virtual tools, the process of selling your home doesn’t need to be all that different. Gardner said that even communication has stayed much the same.

“It really hasn’t changed any,” he said. “It’s phone calls and texts and emails.”

Pandemic or not, a real estate transaction can be a daunting one. A good first step? “Contact a Realtor that you trust in your hyperlocal area,” Sebree said.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Public health and safety reporter, spring 2020. Studying news reporting. Reach me at cgiffin@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at mhart@mail.missouri.edu.

  • As senior editor of the Missourian, Fred Anklam manages general assignment reporters. He can be reached at anklamf@missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5720.

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