Currently, COVID-19 is not having a significant impact on the housing market, yet its effects will eventually be felt in the real estate trenches.

 

The Coronavirus and Housing: Despite all the news swirling about the Coronavirus, the Orange County real estate market is still rocketing forward with an Expected Market Time of 48 days. At first, news of the Coronavirus seemed like a distant crisis on the other side of the world. Then, at the end of January, the first case on U.S. soil was announced. It was not until the end of February when top federal health officials warned that the virus would spread in the United States.

 

Since then, everyone has been confronted with a deluge of information and misinformation. Many mistakenly ran to purchase N95 face masks and now they are nowhere to be found. Others are stockpiling water, toilet paper, canned goods and everyday essentials. The response has been similar to Y2k when the banking system and world economy was supposed to crash due to a computer glitch in ringing in the year 2000, which never materialized.

 

The Coronavirus is beginning to interrupt daily life. There are no more samples at Costco. After the kids’ soccer matches, the handshake has been replaced with a fist bump. Parishioners are no longer holding hands or offering a hand in peace. Starbucks no longer allows reusable cups. There are signs in the grocery store limiting the number of certain items.

 

As the virus began to spread out of control not only in China, but South Korea, Italy and Iran, Wall Street and financial markets around the world panicked and moved their money out of stocks and into long term bonds, United States treasuries. When that occurs, long term mortgage interest rates fall.

 

So, how will the Coronavirus outbreak affect housing? There is no absolute, 100% certain answer. Instead, it all boils down how long this crisis will last and how large of an impact it will have on United States soil and the rest of the world. In China, the number of new cases is dwindling, a glimpse of hope that this too will end. Currently, the data does not indicate any change in the local housing market. The supply of homes to purchase in Orange County is at its lowest level for a start to March since 2013, and demand (last 30-days of pending sales) is at its highest level since 2016. With not enough supply and strong demand, the Expected Market Time (the time between pounding in the FOR-SALE sign and opening escrow) is at 48 days, a HOT Seller’s Market and its lowest level since 2013.

 

As a direct result from the COVID-19 outbreak, mortgage rates have dropped to a record low and will most likely drop even further. There is a chance that they break below 3% and into the 2’s. This inevitably will provoke many more to purchase, juicing demand. For a $750,000 mortgage, today’s 3.25% rate amounts to a $492 per month savings compared to March 2019’s 4.4% rate. That’s a savings of $5,904 per year. If rates drop to 3%, it’s a $594 per months savings, or $7,128 per year. And, at 2.75%, it’s a savings of $694 per month, or $8,328 per year. In doing the math, it is easy to see how lower rates will stimulate demand. The impact on affordability is astounding.