Homes are a huge part of our lives and livelihoods. To find out what’s happening in Birmingham’s residential real estate market, we reached out to four Birmingham real estate agencies to get input on their current market activity and how they’re doing business now. Here’s some of what they said.
1. Bham Now: Is there any good news happening at this time in the local housing market?
- RealtySouth: We’re inspired daily by the innovative ways our sales associates are safely conducting business: virtual home showings, Facebook Live open houses and totally virtual home mortgage closings. Our new home builders are busy catching up from the rainy winter months.
- LAH Real Estate: We’re staying connected with our agents and staff through virtual meetings and planning some fun virtual hangouts soon.
- ARC Realty: People seem to be confident that this will pass. The strength of the market before coronavirus happened is carrying the real estate market forward. Everything that’s happening now is extremely intentional—if someone’s going to look at a house, they’re very serious about it.
- Ingram & Associates: Our agents are busy showing homes, writing contracts and making sales. People still need homes.
2. Bham Now: Talk to us about virtual closings.
- LAH Real Estate: We’ve been using Dotloop for years and have excellent in-house training to prepare our agents for anything. Our local closing attorneys and title companies have been working with us to streamline the online closing process.
- ARC Realty: Governor Kay Ivey’s new stay-at-home order has allowed us to do remote online notarization (RON). This means we can sign everything on a video while the closing attorney is on another video. We’re also doing car closings—you pull up to a building, the attorney brings everything to the car, you sign it and they come back to pick it up.
- RealtySouth: Just last week, Christy McDonald, a RealtySouth agent in Trussville, completed Alabama’s first-ever virtual residential real estate closing, paving the way for lots more of these types of closings. This couldn’t have been successful without the innovative breakthroughs of TitleSouth and Prosperity Home Mortgage.
- Ingram & Associates: All aspects of the real estate business have changed in some way, including drive-through closings. Our agents are sanitizing before and after in-person showings, and we’re hosting FaceTime showing, virtual home tours and virtual contracts with DocuSign electronic signatures.
3. Bham Now: What’s the local housing market like? Are people selling still? buying? What are the ways that’s happening now?
- ARC Realty: Sometimes we go see a house first and keep it unlocked. We’ll go sit in the car and let them go through and share thoughts afterwards. We take gloves, masks, hand sanitizers and keep out of the way. Overall, everyone’s being smart and making everyone’s time count.
- RealtySouth: March home sales were on par with last year and April pendings look strong. The low inventory will continue to bolster local home prices. Motivated buyers and sellers are still very active in our market with multiple offers in high demand areas still being the norm.
- Ingram & Associates: Of course, people are being more careful today. We’ve heard that people are delaying putting their homes on the market due to the current situation. There is low inventory right now—we’ve gone from about 2.2 months of inventory available to 1.9 months currently. That said, the market is ticking along – we are seeing a steady flow of new MLS listings.
- LAH Real Estate: We’ve been doing some virtual walkthroughs and our agents have been working with individuals to meet their needs in a safe and effective way. We’ve had 35 new listings, 75 contracts, and 52 closings in the past 2 weeks while working remotely!
4. Bham Now: Any data on the local housing market?
- RealtySouth: In March, we closed over 620 transactions and are seeing a steady stream of new listings in all of our markets. All of our offices are open for business and practicing physical distancing as we all find innovative ways to connect with our clients and each other. RealtySouth’s pending sales for April are very encouraging, considering our business environment, being off pace by only 2%.
- Ingram & Associates: Inventory is incredibly low. We believe after this there will be a lot of pent-up demand. We encourage people to go ahead and put their homes on the market—the low inventory makes it advantageous.
- LAH Real Estate: Homes that come on the market are scooped up very quickly as Realtors, Lenders, and Title Companies work together to facilitate these transactions safely. This time is pushing the industry to become more resourceful and creative. We’re expecting a busy Fall, which is normally a slower time. Below the $1m price point, housing is moving quickly. Buyers are getting incredible rates for financing, and sellers are getting great value.
- ARC Realty: Showing requests in the MLS app are down 58% from this time last year but at ARC our contract volume is only down 12% from this time last year. To us, these stats reiterate that the activity volume is reduced but the activity intentionality is increased.
5. Bham Now: How are low interest rates impacting sales, refinancing and the residential market as a whole?
- Ingram & Associates: Rates were incredibly low for about a week in March, but they have gone back up some since then. There has been some volatility with rates. However they are still historically low which is encouraging interest in real estate right now.
- LAH Real Estate: Realtors and lenders remain very optimistic about our economy and how our market will respond once we get through this rough patch. All indicators point to a very robust market due to demand, lower interest rates and the stimulus package.
- ARC Realty: Refinancing activity is at an all-time high—everyone’s trying to take advantage of that. Low interest rates are either pushing people to get into the market and look for things right now. The prediction is that they’ll stay low through the 4th quarter of the year, when there will be lots of pent-up demand. We think a lot of people will be waiting for a little more normalcy to return.
- RealtySouth: Our current mortgage market is great for conventional, highly qualified buyers but the recent Federal “relief” has had trickle down consequences for government backed loans and less qualified buyers…. Times like these are where our mortgage company, Prosperity Home Mortgage, gives us an advantage understanding the nuances of the different mortgage products.
Curious about mortgage interest rates? Check here for rates for purchase and refinance.