By: Sonya Colberg, The Journal Record
Oklahoma City houses are priced at an average of $197,000, up 8.2% year- over-year,
with 20 days average on the market, reports Redfin. In Edmond, the average price is $257,000,
up 2.9%, averaging 22 days on the market. (Journal Record file photo)
Real estate agent Jared Kennedy picked up the phone and heard, “Water is pouring through the ceiling!”
Hmm, this could be bad, he thought. But he said he hoped just a little water had seeped into the house. He figured it could be patched up in a couple of days.
The agent had sold the vacant house and set up an April 6 close date, well into the coronavirus outbreak. The buyers initially declined the pre-closing walk- through because of COVID-19 concerns.
Then, at the last minute, the buyers decided to walk through the house.
“Good thing they did,” Kennedy said.
“When they got to the house, the upstairs mini-fridge had an ice maker. The line busted off it. And it flooded the entire house,” said Kennedy, Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of Realtors board member. “It caved in the ceiling. Everything had to be completely gutted and remodeled.”
The repair bill hit $128,000. Insurance handled the costs for the 4,800-square-foot house after the $3,000 deductible.
“Everyone took it well,” said Kennedy. “And the house is still set to close.”
The COVID-19 near-disaster demonstrates how people’s attitudes have changed toward buying and selling homes.
Oklahoma is adjusting, though national home sales suffered the biggest drop in almost 10 years in April as much of the country remained locked down by the coronavirus.
Existing home sales plummeted 17.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.33 million units last month, according to the National Association of Realtors. The drop was the greatest since July 2010.
Bucking the trend
The state is not just adjusting. Under the relaxing restrictions, Oklahoma real estate is rocking. “Oklahoma is really bucking the national trend,” Kennedy said.
“Given the circumstances, I think everyone was expecting this to be a down year,” he added.
Kennedy chose this seemingly unfortunate time to open his own firm, Lime Realty, in January shortly before the coronavirus raced onto the scene.
“Three months in and the world shuts down,” Kennedy said. “It was pretty terrifying.” But he said the real estate market has been incredible for him despite the pandemic.
“I will sell twice as many houses this year as I did last year,” Kennedy said. He said he usually sells about 20 to 25 houses yearly.
Houses priced from $90,000 to nearly $2 million are all selling well, he said.
Eager buyers are flooding the market and some are even buying sight unseen to limit contact, said Nicca Collier with Metro First Realty Premier in Edmond.
“Properties that are positioned properly are selling within a few days of being listed on the MLS,” Collier said, referring to the multiple listing service available to brokers that lists properties for sale.
Tulsa home sales have recently picked up considerably, too, according to Paul Wheeler, owner of Accent Realtors in Tulsa.
“We’re selling about a house a day right now with our small team,” Wheeler said. “The average Realtor sells six a year.”
The Oklahoma City metro had 2,081 closings in April 2019, averaging $204,609, with 51 days on the market, according to MLSOK.
That compares with this April’s 1,908 closings (down 8.3%), averaging $215,990 (up 5.56%), with just 41 days on the market.
Tulsa closings fell to 1,309 in April, down 7.1% from last year. Average selling price hit $184,726 (up 4.64% over 2019), according to RE Datum. Houses stayed on the market about 37 days, versus 43 days in April 2019.
Meanwhile, in the face of the coronavirus, the business of buying and selling houses has dramatically changed. “I don’t know that I’ve seen anything much weirder than this,” said Wheeler.
One in four home sellers have changed how they sell their houses in response to the virus, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Wheeler said people living in the houses they’ve put up for sale initially said, “I’m not sure I want strangers, potentially ill strangers, going through our home.”
Some sellers have requested virtual home tours to cut personal contact. Agents say they have experienced sellers backing out of open houses, though more have recently begun accepting the idea of holding an open house – with safety stipulations.
With concerns and shelter-in-place recommendations still fresh, the state’s home listings slowed significantly in April, according to MLSOK Inc.
New listings in Oklahoma dropped 13.4% for single-family homes, while pending sales fell 9% in April.
There are about 10,496 homes for sale in Oklahoma, listed at a median price of $269,900, averaging about $106 per square foot, according to Redfin.
The lack of inventory is good news for sellers, bad news for buyers. Inventory in Tulsa, Creek, Okmulgee, Osage, Pawnee, Rogers and Wagoner counties plummeted by 36.6% to 4,981 homes for sale, according to RE Datum.
Consequently, buyers have readily accepted the masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, booties and social distancing requested in today’s house showings, agents say.
Buyers and agents typically mention they will be wearing masks, at least, when requesting a house showing.
Open houses virtually shut down for a couple of months during the heat of the pandemic restrictions. But agents say open houses are happening more often now in the Oklahoma City area.
In Tulsa, sellers of only one occupied house represented by Kennedy have wanted an open house, he said.
“I have seven active listings right now. And three will be open this weekend,” he said.
“Under normal circumstances, probably all seven would be open.”
So, the business of selling houses has become more complicated, while the Oklahoma market currently appears healthy.
Market drivers apparently include fewer houses for sale, pent-up demand after eased restrictions, approach of the moving season and – likely most of all – near-record low interest rates of about 3.3% for a 30-year loan.
No one knows how COVID-19 will affect the local market over the rest of the year.
The usual spring buying season will be missed, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement, so a later bounce-back won’t make up for lost sales in April through June. He projects sales will be down 14% nationally for the year.
Oklahoma tends to lag behind much of the country in economic trends, so it’s likely to take about six months before the true effects of a coronavirus economy show up. But Kennedy, Wheeler, Collier and others agree on how local real estate may look going forward.
“We’re feeling it already,” said Wheeler. “We’re calling it the bounce.”
By: Sonya Colberg, The Journal Record