Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Coronavirus slumps Seattle real estate demand: Redfin CEO

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Former Obama Economic Council chair Austan Goolsbee discusses the impact coronavirus will have on the U.S. economy.

Real estate experts are expecting a competitive market in light of likely-dropping mortgage interest rates, but the COVID-19 coronavirus could still hurt home sales.

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Redfin has “seen a significant drop in demand from homebuyers and sellers” during the past three days in Seattle, Glenn Kelman, CEO of the tech-focused real estate brokerage, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. Three homeowners even canceled their listings, apparently concerned about having strangers enter their homes. At least one buyer backed out of an offer.

The Space Needle is shown Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Seattle. As of Wednesday, more than two dozen cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus had been reported in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

WHAT THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK MEANS FOR HOME LOANS, MORTAGE RATES

Depending on the spread of the virus, that drop in demand could be a local, short-lived fluctuation, or other markets could see a similar drop, according to Kelman.

“Our agents still report strong demand in the middle of the country, especially in Chicago, and in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Boston,” he wrote.

Nationwide, the United States had its second-highest pending home sales activity in more than two years, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In this Feb. 20, 2020, photo a framing crew builds a home in Raymond, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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For homeowners looking to sell, the shortage of inventory means properties will likely move quickly. And for owners who want to save money, it could provide a good time to refinance a mortgage, LoanDepot CEO Anthony Hsieh told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto Wednesday.

“This opportunity today allows lots of homeowners to refinance, to lower their household debt and the carry that it has in this market could be the biggest of our history as far as refinancing,” Hsieh said.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, some customers in markets where the coronavirus has been confirmed have asked to meet Redfin agents in private, rather than at a coffee shop, according to Kelman. In an effort to protect customers and ease their concerns, he wrote that Redfin was offering private video home tours with agents using 3D scans of homes.

HOW LOWER MORTGAGE RATES IMPACT HOMEOWNERS

“If you’d rather not meet others except where necessary, we can let you see a home, bid on it and close on it, all virtually,” he wrote.

Kelman added that Redfin was advising its agents against shaking hands with customers and to clean frequently touched objects during showings while the virus outbreak continues.

There were 129 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Eleven deaths had been attributed to the virus. Worldwide, there were more than 93,000 cases and 3,100 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

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FOX Business' Julia Limitone contributed to this report.

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