Matthew Gardner Weekly COVID-19 Housing & Economic Update: 6/1/2020

This week on “Mondays with Matthew”: Now that things have settled down somewhat following the initial impact of COVID-19, Matthew dives into the topic of mortgage rates. Will they go below 3%? Matthew discusses this and the factors that have formed his updated 2020 and 2021 mortgage rate forecast. 

 

Saving in the Laundry Room

Image Source: Shutterstock

 

When it comes to household expenses, staying at home has brought about savings in some areas, while increasing expenses in others. The laundry room has likely seen an uptick in usage, with its associated costs following suit. Save your energy and money by keeping these tips in mind as we continue to adapt to being home more often.

 

Master your machine settings

Review the owner’s manuals for your washer and dryer. There may very well be energy-saving settings you’re not using. For example, your washer’s “high-speed” or “extended wash” cycles will remove more moisture, which can help reduce drying time. A dryer’s “cool down cycle” allows clothes to finish drying using only residual heat.

 

Think twice before washing

Once you’re aware of the costs associated with washing and drying, and the natural resources this consumes, you may decide you don’t need to launder certain clothes as often – which can also extend the life of these garments. Some clothing, like jeans, sweatshirts, and sweatpants, can be worn a few times without a cleaning. Washing these items only when necessary will help you cut down. Another tip – keep another laundry basket in your room for those lightly worn clothes that you could wear again, so they keep separate from your clean clothes.

 

Use hot water only when necessary

Using warm water instead of hot can significantly cut down your washer’s energy expense. Using cold water puts less pressure on electricity grids, saving your household even more money and energy. Cold water washes are less likely to shrink or fade your clothing as well. To ensure your clothes still get clean, try using a cold-water detergent.

 

Right-size your loads

For both washing and drying, taking into consideration the size of your load can factor greatly into your savings. No matter the size of the load you wash, it costs the same amount to run a cycle. So instead of doing two small loads, wait until you have one large load. When drying, keep in mind that an overly full dryer will take longer to dry the clothes. A dryer with too few items inside costs more to operate.

 

Clean the dryer vent and filter

When the lint filter in your dryer gets clogged, airflow is reduced, and the dryer can’t operate effectively. Make a point to clean the filter after every use. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter every month to remove any film buildup. The venting that attaches to the back of your dryer also needs to be kept clean and clear.

 

Air dry

When the weather is sunny and warm, consider putting your clothes out to hang-dry. Doing so will keep your drying expenses to a minimum. It can also be a better drying method for clothing with delicate tailoring.

 

With staying at home being the new status quo, taking a look at the ways our homes use energy and incur expenses is more relevant than ever. These small changes in the laundry room are just some of the minor adjustments you can make in your household during these unique times.

Questions to Ask During Your Virtual Home Tour

Image Source: Canva

 

Thanks to COVID-19, the new reality is that many open houses and home tours are being conducted virtually. For prospective home buyers, this new territory brings an added element to prepare for in the home buying process. Some of the questions that should be asked in a virtual home tour parallel those of in-person tours, but others are unique to today’s virtual world.

 

Could you zoom in?

  • Sometimes it can be difficult to get a true glimpse at what you want to see in a room. Asking the agent to zoom in on specific features is commonplace in virtual home tours, and they understand this is part of the viewer experience. Don’t hesitate to ask multiple times. Getting a better look at everything you want to see will help you feel like you’ve gotten the most out of your virtual tour.

 

How many square feet are in this room?

  • Virtual tours can slightly distort space, making it tough to gauge the size. The room-to-room square footage is information the agent is sure to have handy. Since you can’t be there in person, it will help you piece together the virtual visuals with the sense of physical space that we’re all accustomed to feeling in the places we live.

 

What color is that?

  • In the smartphone era, and computer era at large, we have come to understand that digital representations of color are not always true to the eye. Ask the agent to confirm specific colors so you can plan accordingly. Have a color swatch on hand or look the colors up online as you go through the tour.  

 

When were the appliances last updated?

  • The importance of this question rings true in past, present, and future. Knowing the state of the home’s appliances, and the likelihood and timing of when they will need replacement, is vital information for both assessing the move-in readiness of the home and understanding what costs might lie ahead.

 

Has the seller provided an inspection?

  • This is another example of a critical question, whether your home tour is virtual or physical. If the seller has already done an inspection, ask the agent to lead you to any areas of concern based on the inspector’s findings. If there is anything that has not yet been addressed by the seller, have your agent ask what their plan is for making the necessary repairs/updates.

 

When is the offer review date?

  • Understanding the seller’s timeline for reviewing and accepting offers will help guide your decision-making process and allow you to strategize based on the timeline.

 

Whether your home tour is physical or virtual, getting the information you need to make an informed decision remains paramount. Although there is no substitute for physically being in the home you are looking to buy, keeping these questions in mind will position you well as you progress through the home buying journey.

Neighbors in Need Raises $690,000 for Food Banks

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected populations across the globe, but those who struggle with poverty and count on food programs to meet their basic day-to-day needs are in an especially uncertain place. While coping with increased demand and a bottlenecked pipeline of food supply, food banks are desperate for funds to continue to serve their communities. Because of this, Windermere decided to challenge its offices to raise $250,000, every dollar of which would be matched by the Windermere Foundation and donated to food banks in the areas where Windermere operates. We titled it the “Neighbors in Need” fundraising campaign.

Neighbors in Need kicked off on April 21, with the goal of raising $250,000 by May 5. As word continued to spread, online donations and contributions from both our agents and the public began to increase. Neighbors in Need was given a boost by Seattle Seahawks starting safety Quandre Diggs in a heartfelt message encouraging support. Over the final 24 hours, leading up to the May 5 deadline, support poured in from across the Windermere family as the final figure exceeded the initial goal of $500,000, landing at a total of $690,000.  

Neighbors in Need exemplifies Windermere’s deep commitment to supporting our local communities, which traces back to 1989 when the Windermere Foundation first started. Since then, we’ve proudly raised more than $41 million for low-income and homeless families throughout the Western U.S.  

On behalf of the Windermere Foundation to all those who joined the effort: Thank you. We could not have made this large of an impact without your help. We are humbled to be able to do our part to help those who need it most during these uncertain times.

Northern California Real Estate Market Update

 

We are excited to introduce the Gardner Report to Northern California! The following analysis of the real estate market in select counties of Northern California is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market  in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent. 

 

A MESSAGE FROM MATTHEW GARDNER

Needless to say, any discussion about the U.S. economy, state economy, or housing markets in the first quarter of this year is almost meaningless given events surrounding the COVID-19 virus.

Although you will see below data regarding housing activity in the region, many markets came close to halting transactions in March and many remain in some level of paralysis. As such, drawing conclusions from the data is almost a futile effort. I would say, though, it is my belief that the national and state housing markets were in good shape before the virus hit and will be in good shape again, once we come out on the other side. In a similar fashion, I anticipate the national and regional economies will start to thaw, and that many of the jobs lost will return with relative speed. Of course, all of these statements are wholly dependent on the country seeing a peak in new infections in the relatively near future. I stand by my contention that the housing market will survive the current economic crisis and it is likely we will resume a more normalized pattern of home sales in the second half of the year.

 

HOME SALES

  • In the first quarter of 2020, 6,191 homes sold, a drop of 3.8% compared to the first quarter of 2019.
  • Sales were a mixed bag, with increases in half of the counties contained in this report and half seeing sales slow. Of note was the decent increase in sales in Contra Costa County, but this was offset by a drop in sales in Alameda County.
  • The contraction of sales may be attributed to a significant drop in inventory, which was down 24.7% from a year ago. This decline is likely due to COVID-19. Second quarter data will confirm or refute this thesis.
  • Pending home sales dropped 6.1% compared to the first quarter of 2019. Again, this is likely due to COVID-19.

 

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • The average home price in the Northern Californian counties contained in this report rose 3.7% year-over-year to $784,843.
  • The most affordable counties in terms of average sale prices were Shasta and Solano. Price growth in these markets was very solid.
  • Average prices rose in all counties other than Santa Clara, which is not surprising given it is the most expensive market covered in this report. Prices across most counties rose at above-average long-term rates, with impressive increases in San Luis Obispo and Solano counties.
  • As this is the first report prepared for counties within Northern California, my ability to comment is limited. That said, it will be interesting to see how the market further reacts to COVID-19 and we look forward to offering analysis and perspective when we get second quarter data.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average time it took to sell a home in the Northern Californian counties covered by this report dropped five days compared to the first quarter of 2019.
  • In the first quarter, it took an average of 55 days to sell a home. Homes sold fastest in Alameda and Santa Clara counties, and slowest in Shasta County.
  • The amount of time it took to sell a home dropped in all counties other than Shasta (+2 days) and San Luis Obispo (+4 days).
  • The greatest drop in market time was in Napa County, where it took 17 fewer days to sell a home than in the first quarter of 2019.

 

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

Given the current economic environment, I have decided to freeze the needle in place until we see
a restart in the economy. Once we have resumed “normal” economic activity, there will be a period of adjustment with regard to housing. Therefore, it is appropriate to wait until later in the year to offer my opinions about any quantitative impact the pandemic will have on the housing market.

 

 

ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K. 

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.

Coming Together For Our Neighbors in Need

 

Every year for the past 35 years, Windermere Real Estate has closed its doors on the first Friday in June for its annual Community Service Day so that our 9,000-member team can head into our local neighborhoods and volunteer. This year, in light of COVID-19, we have made the decision to replace Community Service Day with an immediate fundraising challenge for our offices to help food banks whose operations, and the people they serve, have been heavily impacted by the virus.

Between now and Tuesday May 5, we are matching every dollar, up to $250,000, that our offices raise, with the goal of donating $500,000 to food banks in the communities across the Western U.S. where we operate. The public is also invited to participate by donating to the Windermere Foundation here. All donations will be directed to food banks with the greatest need.

Those who struggle with poverty and depend on food programs are having difficulty meeting their basic needs. Our mission is to help local food banks in our communities keep their shelves stocked and keep food on the tables of those families.

Due to COVID-19, food bank representatives expect the number of people they normally serve to double. The increased consumer demand on grocery stores has slowed the pipeline of food bank donations, which are crucial to their ability to serve their communities. With these complicating factors, every food bank has the same answer when it comes to their greatest need: dollars.

Neighbors in Need is the latest example of the Windermere family coming together in support of our local communities during the COVID-19 epidemic. The positive impact we have seen across our footprint thus far gives us confidence in our ability to meet our total donation goal of $500,000. If you would like to help, you can donate here: