Friday, April 3, 2020

Governor Modifies and Clarifies Executive Order

Here in Washington State, Governor Inslee made a few modifications to the Executive Order "Stay Home" originally issued last week. The governor modified the real estate profession requirements to allow limited showings and generally loosened up the industry restrictions during the "stay home" order. He also made some "clarifications" about the construction industry that has sent home the majority of construction industry workers. Construction is effectively shut down as of now except for critical infrastructure and emergency projects.

I appreciate the governor giving some latitude to real estate but I think some of that latitude should be extended to the construction trades as well. I am familiar with construction activities and most construction projects have workers space at 6 feet or further 90% of the time and the systems in place could be modified by project managers to gain 100% compliance.

I do not envy the position of the president or any of our state governors as they have to make important decisions that can be a matter of life and death as well as the cause economic calamities. I still believe the governor is a bit heavy handed here with the COVID-19 response. Now this is an important and dangerous situation so I am not of the mind to suggest the governor should not have taken decisive action, in fact to the contrary, I think he had to. But the economy is also import as it is the lifeblood for healthcare, well being, and ultimately funds the government's operations.

Governor Inslee needs to keep as many people employed as possible in any position that can honor the 6 foot distancing. Where the governor can be heavy handed is in the enforcement of that 6 foot rule and any other COVID-19 mandates. Project managers do not want to face heavy fines or a shutdown over workers failing to comply, so site supers would be more than willing to crack down and keep everyone safe.

Factories and other operations where stations are close, could be modified to run half ops with half the stations closed and other modifications to the systems to keep workers employed should be considered. Even restaurants could have been open with 1/3 to 1/2 cap restrictions but I know that is unlikely to be approved.

The bottom line is that buyers and sellers can still execute their transactions and the governor is to be commended for seeing that real estate procedures can be modified to comply with the government safety mandate for COVID-19. Irregardless of one's personal political views, we should all support the governors of every state as they try and deal with this difficult situation. This is not the time for petty politics.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Governor's Lock-down and Real estate

On Monday the Governor here in Washington State, decided to go to a stay home policy that has more or less shut down all 'non-essential' business and services. For real estate that means we as realtors cannot show property to prospects nor can we engage in things such as an open house. For the home inspectors, they are linked to the "essential construction industry" and as such can with some limitations perform home inspections for pending transactions. It also seems that appraisers are still able to do their thing as well. So pending transactions should be OK during this shut down.

However the buying and selling process is going to be slowed down for all active listings in the area until such time the government returns to a more "normal" status. If we can get this thing under control soon, say in the next 30-45 days, we should be right back on track for a reasonable real estate market. I believe that at least some negative fallout in the form of some layoffs and such will result. For buyers in the entry-level price ranges this could be a blessing in disguise as that potential "fallout" would soften the number of qualified buyers seeking homes and make life a little easier in the hunt once it resumes hopefully before May.

Whatever the outcome economically there are going to be some winners and losers. The losers are those that unfortunately lost jobs or opportunities due to this government lock-down. They will get their chance to return after things perk up. The winners need to be ready to strike when the lock-down is lifted. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Virus versus Housing

Last week I mentioned that the Wuhan Corona virus and associated economic issues might lead to an influx of cash for real estate. That has not materialized yet. Bonds, Gold, Hard Money, all of the normal flow points for equities in distress are also down. That means the wealthy "market makers" are holding onto cash. This is very surprising to me because there are few if any places on this planet where cash is earning money, in fact in many countries cash COSTS money.

I believe that investors are genuinely spooked by this virus and are waiting for the cases to start declining rather than continuing upwards. Once the dust settles they will likely move that cash back into equities, bonds, gold or where ever they think the best opportunity is. Until that happens mortgage interest rates will continue to climb, the stock market will remain flat or possibly dip lower. We really have to wait to see what the "big financial fish" do before we can get a handle on the long term market effects for real estate and other sectors.

Locally our housing market hasn't reacted that much to this condition. There does seem to be a tad less buyers out and about house hunting, but well priced homes seem to be getting traction despite the doom and gloom. Hopefully Washington's governor will not go too far with the draconian wand like they have in California, Oregon, and New York. Yes, we need to keep people safe, but there are also practical limits to this thing and I believe the aforementioned states have already tread into those murky waters of over reaction.

That said, we should all be mindful of the call for some social distancing and limit excursions to solo activities and necessary outings. Looking at houses is necessary :)