COVID Vax Rollout a Potential Boon for Real Estate
By Jordan Grice
The housing market is still buzzing from the 2020 surge of activity, but several agents and brokers are hopeful that a vaccinated population will be a boon for this year's market, along with a return to some semblance of the pre-pandemic normalcy.
More than 50 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine since the start of March, according to a New York Times article. The article projects that roughly 70% of the population will be at least partially vaccinated by the third quarter of 2021 at the current rate.
Perhaps the most anticipated effect of a mass vaccine rollout, according to experts, is that more sellers may return to the market that has seen a dwindling supply.
"We expect that the vaccine rollout will likely boost inventory, as sellers become increasingly willing to move despite COVID-19—resulting in greater numbers of new listings beginning this spring," says Chris Glynn, principal economist at Zillow, which recently released a survey showing that 70% of homeowners—amounting to more than 14 million homes—would be comfortable moving to a new home after widespread COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
That's an optimistic sign for a market in serious need of its own injection of inventory. For several markets, the additional supply may give buyers more options and breathing room, while also adding to the demand as well.
"Right now we are in the super boom, real estate-wise, with domestic buyers primarily, which is almost unheard of. With the vaccine rollout, I think we are going to go to another level," says Chad Carroll, a broker South Florida.
Face Time Returns
Along with a potential uptick in selling confidence, several brokers and agents say they are looking forward to an increase of in-person events across the industry as pandemic restrictions are lifted.
"Our agents are begging to go back to in-person training and events," says Jessica Loy, a broker associate.
That includes industry staples like open houses that have been severely hampered across several markets due to social distancing protocols and max-capacity event restrictions.
"As people feel more comfortable, the way we are selling will shift back more toward in-person showings and we anticipate foot traffic for residential and new developments to increase, which will lead to an increase in sales," says Fernando de Nuñez y Lugones, an industry economist.
Even at the current rate of people receiving their vaccinations, it may take at least the rest of the year to see certain practices returning to normal—or at least the new normal—across the real estate industry.
"We still have a ways to go I think, but we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and certainly by the end of this year, barring anything unforeseen...I think more people will be comfortable with meeting people in person," says Cheryl Eidinger-Taylor, a broker.
Embracing the Virtual Space
Transition to the virtual environments was unavoidable as the pandemic kicked into gear last year, causing an industry-wide shift that appears to be here to stay, according to brokers and agents.
"While people will be more comfortable, a lot of the trends and technology that we adopted during the pandemic, like virtual meetings and closings, will remain as part of our arsenal, and productivity will increase," says de Nuñez y Lugones.
From interacting with buyers and sellers to meeting with colleagues for routine meetings and training, Zoom—along with other video conferencing platforms—has become a common practice that real estate professionals say they've grown accustomed to in the past year.
That has been the case for Dana Green, a broker and team leader, who says virtual meetings with clients has also become a time-saver for her and her team as they've navigated social distancing protocols in the California market.
"Rather than somebody worrying about me coming to their house first thing in the morning… and stressing about it, they can just get on Zoom with a cup of coffee and we can have a great conversation," Green says. "I will, for the rest of my life, do my second listing appointment on Zoom."
The same may also be true for training and career development opportunities for agents, which have also seen a shift to online formats. According to Loy, agents at her firm have "loved having a self-paced online learning platform accessible to them 24/7.
"We shifted to an entirely online and on-demand learning management system for our training and knew that was something our agents wanted, but the pandemic expedited that project," she says, adding the digital pivot was something their agents wanted even prior to the pandemic and may become a common practice across the industry.
Even as the industry embraces the online space beyond the pandemic, maintaining a human connection with clients is paramount to future success, according to Fara Captain, a broker/owner from Tennessee.
"We are always going to be a trusted professional whether it's through FaceTime or face to face, six feet apart," Captain says. "You can have all the technology in the world, but a robot can't take our place."