There are now more than 16,000 cases of coronavirus in the US.
As the government cracks down on measures to mitigate its spread, industries around the globe are grappling with an unprecedented downward shift in business. And Americans don’t appear to be in the mood to buy houses.
Heading into March, the US housing market was showing the kind of green shoots appropriate for the start of spring. In fact, in the last quarter of 2019, million-dollar sales were up 11% and housing prices overall were up, too. On an annual basis, 2019 saw the most first-time homebuyers since 1993, according to Genworth Mortgage Insurance.
Then, in January, new home sales and pending homes sales both shot up and inventory was at its lowest level since 2012. The next month, existing-home sales hit their highest point in 13 years. In early March, mortgage rates hit historic lows, boding well for home-buying in 2020.
But America gradually woke up to the spread of the novel coronavirus, which the World Health Organization only declared a global pandemic on March 11. And data from March shows a sharp contraction.
Google Trend data showed that searches with the term “real estate” dropped 23% from March 6 to March 13, according to a report by the real estate online marketplace, Point2Homes. The data also showed drops in the searches for “houses for sale,” “condos for sale,” and “apartments for rent.” And on the Point2Homes platform, US traffic on the site dropped by 35% from March 9 to March 16.
The Seattle-based brokerage Redfin also reported a drastic drop in consumer interest. According to company data, the year-over-year growth of nationwide home-buying demand dropped from roughly 27% in January and February to 1% as of March 18. Redfin suspended all open houses nationwide earlier this week.
The housing industry is expected to make adjustments to the social distancing enacted by many communities in hopes of slowing the outbreak. In fact, real estate brokerages and agents across the country are already looking to virtual tours to help sell homes during the COVID-19 outbreak.
As Curbed reported, other professionals in the industry are being encouraged to offer virtual tours through video chat or private showings instead of hosting traditional open houses. In fact, a team from Compass has gone as far as partnering with RICOH Tours to stream open houses, according to Curbed.