“Traditionally, we would see a dramatic uptick in the number of homes coming on the market,” said Brian Hutchinson, CEO of the Williamson County Association of Realtors, or WCREALTORS.
Due to coronavirus concerns, this spring is different, sources said, and the number of homes being placed on the market is down compared to previous years. According to Hutchinson, there were 1,186 new listings for the week of March 20-27 on MLS for the Austin and Central Texas areas.
"That is a strong number,” he said, even though it is down from previous years.
While representatives from the Austin Board of Realtors, or ABoR, and WCREALTORS said showings have decreased, both groups said that anecdotally, sales remain robust. Monthly sales data for both groups will be released by mid-April.
Depending on the region, realtors are either showing homes in person, using social distancing or incorporating digital tools to show homes and communicate with buyers and sellers.
“Members are reporting to me that homes are selling at or above list price in shorter periods of time," Hutchinson said. "Loans are being completed, appraisers are still appraising, title companies are still closing and the counties are still recording. The difference is twofold. Transactions are taking a little more time, and everybody is being safe.”
Realtors are using digital workarounds to show residential properties.
“Realtors are showing houses in Williamson County, though it looks significantly different than it did even two weeks ago,” Hutchinson said. “Our brokers are making smart choices to protect the public as well as their consumers. In Williamson County, physical showings still happen but have been largely replaced by virtual showing or technology-based showings.”
Due to stay-in-place orders, video and virtual tours are more popular than ever, both groups said, especially in Austin, Travis County and Williamson County. An ABoR representative said realtors use FaceTime and other video chat apps to “walk through the unoccupied property while answering questions in real-time.”
“In Williamson County, our market is constricted, and these types of tours help buyers from out of the area to see homes," Hutchinson said. “I believe we will see a higher number of virtual tours in the coming weeks and months.”
Showings dramatically decreased March 25, when Austin, Travis County and Williamson County issued stay-at-home orders due to coronavirus concerns.
A day later, ABoR recommended all of its Realtor members suspend in-person real estate showings, particularly for occupied dwellings, until further notice.
WCREALTORS, which is headquartered in Round Rock, did not issue a similar recommendation.
“WCREALTORS has not established any rules,” Hutchinson said. “That is the duty and responsibility of brokers.”
ABoR’s members primarily serve Austin as well as Travis and Williamson counties. WCREALTORS' membership comprises those areas as well as Bell, Burnet, Milam and Lee counties to the north, according to Hutchinson.
“As Gov. Abbott has pointed out, Texas is a big state. What is happening in Williamson and Travis counties is not the same as [in] Milam and Lee,” Hutchinson said. “Instead of rules, WCREALTORS is distributing information from the government and our trusted partners for brokers to make decisions.”
As of March 30, there are 206 confirmed cases of coronavirus cases in Travis County and 41 in Williamson County. Meanwhile, there are 32 confirmed cases in Bell, Burnet Milam and Lee counties combined.
“This is an unprecedented time for our industry, but we are confident in our realtors and their ability to adapt,” an ABoR spokesperson said March 30. “The safety of our realtors and their clients is of paramount importance, which is why are have issued these guidelines.”
In the meantime, the spokesperson said, potential buyers and sellers should use technology as much as possible.
“We encourage everyone to stay home and rely on the many tools available to us to keep the business of real estate moving during this time,” per the ABoR spokesperson.
Both groups said local demand for homes remains strong despite coronavirus concerns—for now.
“It is certainly an interesting time,” Hutchinson said.