On March 26, NVAR hosted a webinar titled “Brokerage, Settlement and Lending Perspective in the COVID-19 Environment.” Watch the webinar and read a brief summary below.
The magnitude and speed at which the COVID-19 virus is affecting the national and local economy will have short- and long- term effects, Dr. Terry Clower, director of George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, explained during his summary of the virus’s impact on housing markets in the NVAR region.
“By most any definition, we are probably entering into a recession,” Clower said. “Now keep in mind, the technical definition of a recession is two quarters or more of negative growth, so there’s a little bit of a question mark about that so far – but certainly if we continue with what we’re seeing at the moment, we are going to be in a recession.”
Outlining possible “what-if” scenarios, Clower laid out the potential loss for the real estate industry – while explaining that housing market data is not yet available, and the economic impact will be slowed by factors such as a lag in job loss and the $2 trillion stimulus bill.
“Take it [the virus] seriously. Be safe for yourself and your family. But understand the U.S. economy has an underlying resilience – an underlying strength – and though we are going to be in for some pain for a period of time of unknown duration at this point, we will recover from this,” Clower said.
Clower urged the importance of staying home and doing your part to prevent the spread of the virus, which in turn would help the economy with a “rapid bounce-back.”
“The longer that it takes to break that contagion cycle, then that’s going to lengthen out the time it takes for us to recover,” he explained.
David Howell, executive vice president & CIO of McEnearney Associates, agreed – urging Realtors® to stop holding in-person open houses and to take advantage of the technology tools available. Howell emphasized the need for clarity, compassion and communication – even at the risk of over-communicating.
Victoria Kiser, senior loan officer with Embrace Home Loans, said lenders are prioritizing purchases and working around the clock to get people to closing on time. Borrowers may notice that lenders are re-verifying income just before closing, she noted.
“There are some pockets of opportunity out there for those who are willing to maybe view a property virtually and have the confidence – maybe they’ve been in the market long enough that they don’t actually have to go see the property,” Kiser said.
Fred Westerlund, CEO of MBH Settlement, said that settlement companies are trying to be as flexible as possible while putting the safety of clients and colleagues first without disrupting service. Many settlement agents are offering e-closings, utilizing mobile or e-notarization and traveling to homes if clients don’t want to visit the office, he explained.
County court houses and real estate businesses remain open under the Governor’s executive order, and even if a court house isn’t open to walk-in traffic, most settlement companies can still get the documents recorded in a timely manner, Westerlund added.
“I would encourage everyone to speak to your settlement agent and get the best arrangement for you and your clients,” he said.
The panelists expressed the positive opportunity to utilize technology during this time – as well the importance of relying on legitimate, credible sources.
“You as professional Realtors® have to be the trusted representative,” Clower said. “In other words, the degree to which your clients are having to rely on you for information is going to increase as we are having to shift the way we do business.”
***Be on the look-out for a new resource coming from GMU CRA in partnership with NVAR serving as a clearinghouse for economic impact data for our region.