Masks and curfews

Masks and curfews are unrelated but I figured I would help get the word out. The mask rule for St. Paul is a little different than what I have seen for other cities. I have been wearing a mask inside in public places and stores and staying six feet away from others.

We do wear masks when working with clients and generally do everything we can to keep the six-foot distance. We also provide masks for our clients if they do not have one. Many appointments can be done virtually. I won’t wear a mask while on my own property. When I go for a walk or bike-ride I have one handy that I can put on if needed.

St. Paul mask rule

There is a curfew tonight in St.Paul and Minneapolis it starts at 10:00 PM. People have been arrested each night for being out after curfew, often while peacefully protesting. Sixty-six people were arrested in St. Paul last night for curfew violations.

There will be protests today as the community continues to demand justice. The protests are for the most part peaceful and people do what they can to stay six feet apart. There are thousands of peaceful protesters.

There are still a lot of boarded-up businesses. Yesterday was the first-day restaurants with outdoor dining could open since the stay at home orders. Very few did open but I noticed businesses sprucing up their outdoor seating. In some cases without removing the boards from the windows.

Last night was quieter than the last several nights. The only thing that kept me awake is the image of the president holding a bible. He had peaceful protesters shot with rubber bullets and tear gas so that he could stand in front of a church holding a bible upside down for a photo opp.

We should all be extra vigilant right now because the president hates blue states and he controls the biggest guns. There won’t be any healing words from the white house. Any response is likely to involve weapons.

Working requires PPE

Real estate in Minnesota is considered an essential service. We have been open for business through the stay at home orders.  In the early days of the shutdown last March, I had listings to sell and closings to manage. It was actually pretty busy through April.

In the last week or two things have slowed. Don’t get me wrong home sales are still happening at a rapid pace but with fewer homes on the market, there are fewer listings and that means less work.

My clients who plan on buying or selling have not changed their plans but some are going to wait a while because a pandemic isn’t always the best time to buy or sell. Those who are waiting for home prices to drop will have a long wait.

Some have changed their minds about where they want to live and even how they want to live.

Like anyone who has to go out and work, I have had to think about safety and protection. I am able to easily make my own masks but it is only recently that I was able to acquire enough disposable masks so that I can give them to my clients.

It wasn’t until about a month ago that I was able to get gloves and hand sanitizer. Now I can go out and I have enough protective supplies for myself and for my clients.

Some home buyers are making offers based on pictures rather than touring the house first. We make inspection contingent offers and they tour it with the inspector. There are people who have to sell right now. Some are able to move while others have to stay home.

Sellers can put their house on the market without allowing in-person showings. That is working too.

When buyers tour houses it is one at a time and children are not allowed on private home tours. I ask my clients to wear gloves and masks and I provide them if needed. They are instructed to not touch anything.

We know that transmission of the COVID-19 virus most often happens through contact with someone who has the virus but we also know it can live on surfaces and there is always the chance it could pass from surface to human.

Right now I don’t really see an end in sight. I can not see a day when it is truly safe to have close contact with people. I will go out for necessities and I show houses in person as needed but that is about it.

Technology has made it easy to meet with people from the safety of our homes. I have logged quite a few hours on ZOOM. I have been able to see people’s houses and give them advice on how to get it ready to sell.

For me, work has really changed. I am sure it will evolve some more and I plan to evolve along with it. I learned a lot during the great recession and the crash of the housing market and have been preparing for the next recession ever since.

Open houses are back

open houseDuring the Governors “Stay at home” order open houses were not allowed. There were a few open houses here and there but not many. Under the new “Stay Safe” order open houses are allowed.

Houses that are for sale often sell in a couple of days or hours without any kind of an open house. Open houses are a great opportunity for real estate agents to prospect and for homebuyers to do a little shopping. They are also an opportunity for neighbors and people who like to see houses.

The agents who are having open houses must do so in a safe way by limiting the number of people who can go in the house and requiring masks and keeping people at least six feet apart. Anything that people touch needs to be sanitized before, after, and during the open house.

If you have a home to sell you can say no to open houses. If you do not want anyone touring the house you can say no to showings. Homebuyers will make offers based on the pictures subject to inspection. During the inspection period, the buyer can tour the home with the inspector.

I have been out touring with home buyers. I have masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer for them. We can stay six feet apart. On some level touring homes for sale is safer than going to the grocery store. It took me weeks to accumulate enough PPE work with clients.

For now, selling real estate is fairly easy. The demand is high and the prices are not going down. We anticipate finishing the year with home prices up slightly from 2019. Open houses are not a not an essential part of the home sales process.

What is old is new again

I wrote this back in 2015 and it wasn’t new then either. I wrote it to let people know that we can have long-distance relationships with home sellers.  Over the years I have worked with several sellers that I have not met in person.

These days with Covid-19 guidelines and restrictions real estate companies are scrambling to do what we have been able to do for years. Working with home sellers and buyers with little or no in-person contact.

Since 2015 the process of buying and selling real estate has gotten a lot easier because of the software we use. Everything is electronic or as some say “virtual”.

I wrote about it back in 2015 and working with remote clients wasn’t new then either:

view
view from a River Park Loft

Technology makes it easier than ever to work with out of town sellers. Sometimes I never meet get to meet the owners of the properties I sell in person.

It is easy to stay in touch and to let the owners know how often buyers are viewing the property and what they are saying about it.

A couple of years ago I sold a home for someone who was living in Sweden. As long as we were both mindful of that we were a few time zones apart it worked out pretty well. We were able to get some repairs made to the home and I was able to sell it in just a few weeks.

With electronic forms and signatures, it is very easy for me to get contracts signed and when the seller has an offer we can go over it and it can be signed without ever being printed.

Sellers don’t have to be present for the closing. The money can be wired to the sellers’ bank account.

No, you don’t have to live in Minnesota to sell your Minnesota property.

Shift in consumer spending

Last week I watched some of the National Association of Realtors mid-year meetings. One of the presentations I watched was that of  Lawrence Yun, NARS chief economist.

Here is a breakdown in some of the changes in consumer spending during the pandemic.

March spending
Consumer spending

The increased spending on gardening and building materials stands out. I have purchased both in the last few months. I haven’t made many purchases but needed a few things for my business and office that I bought online.

I have spent a lot of time working in the yard this spring. Gardening seems more important than ever and so does the yard. I still have two projects inside the house I hope to complete this spring and both involve paint.

Watching trends is important right now because it is hard to predict what the rest of the year will look like. According to Yun, home sales will be down by an average of 10 to 15% nationwide for 2020. He is also predicting that interest rates will remain low and may even go below the 3% mark and that we will see more home sales in 2021.

Either way, I’ll be here and ready to help because selling real estate is what I do.

Tuesday is grocery day

Businesses on West 7th

I have been going to the grocery store every Tuesday, I try to do it during old people hours which are usually early in the morning.

Most of my friends and neighbors order online and use curbside pick-up or have groceries delivered. I probably should not be going to the store but I worry that it will close and I think that would be a great loss to the neighborhood.

Each time I go there is less on the shelves, fewer varieties of fresh produce, and less meat but there is still plenty of food.

Last week the car was making a kind of clunking noise. I took it to a small neighborhood shop and had it fixed. Car repairs are not fun but at least I was able to help a neighborhood business.

We cook at home a lot these days but I try to get one or two meals a week from a neighborhood small business that is within two or three blocks of where I live.

I have been able to get eggs and other food at the Farmer’s market. There are fewer vendors than there were last year. During the growing season, most of the produce I buy comes from the Farmer’s market and from my own garden.

There are many small businesses and neighborhood grocery stores that are not going to survive the pandemic and stay at home orders. The loss of small businesses is going to slow economic recovery.

I think my own small business can survive for a while but I don’t really know for sure. I do know that most of the money I make gets spent in my neighborhood.

I am going to continue shopping in the neighborhood for as long as I can. I will continue spending money as close to home as I can and I hope others will do the same.