Residential real estate professionals in Austin say they expect the city'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.
Nonetheless, local experts expect Austin to weather the storm.
Earlier in March, the Austin Board of Realtors reported a 6.8 percent year-over-year spike in home sales in February. But, the board says, it’s unclear how coronavirus-propelled social distancing will affect home sales going forward.
In a release, Romeo Manzanilla, 2020 president of the Austin Board of Realtors, says rock-bottom interest rates will continue to drive home sales, “despite our shared concerns over the impact of COVID-19 in our community.”
With stay-at-home orders in place, Realtors are relying more than ever on tech tools like virtual tours and interactive floor plans, Manzanilla says.
“The housing market is absolutely still open for business,” he says, “but the business of real estate is evolving like we all are through this experience.”
Mark Sprague, state director of information capital at Independence Title, says that despite the current environment, buyers remain eager to close sales in Austin.
“Current indicators are that Austin’s housing market remains strong and competitive. Any decrease in inventory would only increase competitiveness in our market,” Sprague says. “Overall, Austin’s economy and housing market look to be resilient during this uncertain time.”
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, residential real estate professionals are optimistic about the long-term prospects for the local home market.
“Once COVID-19 subsides, there is a potential for even more investment by employers in the Austin market, and I would expect those looking for a more affordable cost of living compared to other major U.S. metropolitan areas will still look to move to and buy homes in Austin,” says Sprague.