The current coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly everyone’s life and livelihood. From school closures to shopping restrictions and shortages to social distancing, 2020 is turning out differently than many expected. As the U.S. works to flatten the infection curve while slowly beginning the reopening process, one thing is clear. Home has never been more important.
As real estate is considered an essential business in many states, showings, contracts and closings have continued throughout the pandemic, albeit in creative new ways. Virtual showings, online meetings and signatures, and even virtual closings in some cases, are all part of adjusting to a social distancing society. For Mark Spain Real Estate, adapting has not been as challenging as some brokerages may be experiencing. The firm has been paperless for some time, already enlists the services of professional photography for its listings, hosts open houses at an owner’s request, but has never relied on open houses as the primary way to source buyers and has an agent team that is, for the most part, used to working remotely.
“Agents who heavily relied on in-person open houses to sell their homes are having to reinvent the sales process,” stated Mark Spain Real Estate President John Makarewicz. “We have not believed they are the best or primary way to sell a home for quite some time. Instead, we heavily invested in technology and online marketing.”
Makarewicz says Mark Spain Real Estate also relies on video or virtual tours for nearly all its listings. The timing for this could not be better, as potential homebuyers are relying on a large selection of professional photos and virtual tours to narrow down their options, all from the safety of their current residence. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) data, the percentage of buyers who purchase a home without ever seeing it in person was just 3.5 percent, pre-coronavirus. An NAR survey conducted in early May found this number had spiked to nearly 25 percent.
Additionally, Realtor.com reports that interest in listings with virtual tours has doubled. The number of listing views, saves and shares has also markedly increased in recent weeks.
While U.S. shelter-in-place guidelines first began in some parts of the country on March 16, Mark Spain Real Estate had an all-time record month in March for new listings. According to a first quarter recap on its blog (“Mark Spain 2020 First Quarter Successes and Growth”), its March listings growth was 100 percent over March the previous year and its closing rate was 31 percent higher, year-over-year. March closings were up 23 percent compared to pre-coronavirus rates, with average sales price up 1 percent over the prior year.
In monitoring this same information in April, closings were up 3 percent, compared to pre-COVID-19 and 12 percent, year-over-year. This time, however, the average sales price was up a whopping 15 percent over the prior year and 4 percent, pre-pandemic.
This stat would seem to support NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun’s assessment that home prices are still on the rise. This is, in part, due to an already existing inventory shortage, pre-coronavirus. Prices have continued to increase and bidding wars are occurring in some price points.
“For April, Mark Spain Real Estate’s number of new listings was up 10 percent over pre-COVID-19 rates,” summarized Makarewicz, who oversees offices in Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte and Raleigh.
In comparison, Realtor.com’s Monthly Housing Trends Report mentioned newly listed homes dropped 44.1 percent nationally in April. In the South, specifically, the new listing rate decreased 31.4 percent for April, year-over-year.
Mark Spain Real Estate’s Guaranteed Offer program—in existence now for more than two years—is also a welcome option for some home sellers right now. This hassle-free model allows sellers a way to quickly sell a home without formally listing it.
At the end of the day, it still boils down to having an amazing team of agents and staff to make all the various moving parts come together,” explained founder and CEO Mark Spain. “And customer service, coupled with ongoing training, have always been hallmarks of our company. Now, we are just using our expertise to serve others remotely.”
Spain also mentioned the firm is actively hiring real estate agents. The team’s growth, as of March 2020, was up 62 agents, or roughly 40 percent, year-over-year, with more positions to be filled. Interested agents should visit www.joinmarkspain.com to learn more.