It’s been a little more than a decade since the real estate market across the country collapsed amid a recession that staggered the national and local economies.

It’s been a little more than a decade since the real estate market across the country collapsed amid a recession that staggered the national and local economies.

Now, as COVID-19 is upending our daily lives and the economy again, local Realtors are bracing for what might develop but remain optimistic.

“I have confidence that the market will recover quickly at the Lake after a brief pause,” RE/MAX Realtor Karie Jacobs offered recently. “The fundamentals of the real estate market are strong and there isn't any reason to panic. The most important issue at this time is to take a pause and focus on your family and their safety.” 

The market coming into the virus was strong based on low interest rates, high demand, employment and record earnings on investments, Jacobs noted.  

“I view this as a temporary pause in the market. The financial concerns that we will experience the next two to three months will slow recovery into a normal market, but the market will rebound,” she predicted.

Jacobs has been assisting clients for 41 years and this is the fourth downturn she has experienced. What makes it different this time, she said, is that the country is in the midst of short-term national medical crisis rather than something brought on by the economy as a whole.  

“This is uncharted territory, but I feel confident in the Lake area,” she said.

Jacobs backed her optimism with first-quarter 2020 sales which are ahead of the same period for 2019.

First quarter sales show an increase in units sold/closed in condo and homes classifications, according to MLS information provided by Jacobs. As of March 31, there were 486 units sold/closed compared to 440 a year ago. And 2019 year-end statistics from the MLS reflected a strong year as well.

The Bagnell Dam Association of Realtors reported total volume of sales jumped 6.23 percent from 2018-2019. From 2016 to 2019, total sales volume skyrocketed 29.7 percent. 

Information was compiled from the Bagnell Dam Association of Realtors MLS for the period Jan. 1, 2020, ending April 1, 2020, and same time period for 2019.  Data may change slightly with additional input of delayed sale data for 2020.

Another local Realtor, Mary Albers of Four Seasons Realty, is equally optimistic. 

“The market is still strong at Lake of the Ozarks,” she said.                          

She offered some Multiple Listing Service (MLS) statistics – for seven days ending April 7 -- that reflect the strength of the market.                 •72 SOLD Listings •16 PENDING Listings                                                                              •38 CONTINGENT Listings   Albers agreed with Jacobs’ assessments.

The COVID-19 issues are offering some challenges for Realtors, buyers and sellers. But a factor that favors the lake-area has over other areas of the country is that it is unique, she offered.                         

“We find that it’s easier to show property here at the lake versus in the city during this time since sellers are typically not living in their homes here,” Albers explained. “If they are trying to sell, they want their properties shown.”                                                                                                 Real estate agents are having more virtual showings for buyers with the Stay-at-Home order in effect. Agents are FaceTiming clients and are making offers using electronic signature programs. Title companies are still closing as well. In-person showings are still occurring with agents keeping social distancing. Buyers meet agents at the property instead of driving together.                                                   

“Real estate agents are very actively marketing their listings, so we continue to stay busy,” she said.

The lake real estate market has had a shortage of properties for sale over the last couple years, Albers noted.

“I don’t expect that to change much due to the Covid-19 pandemic even though that will depend on how long the situation lasts.”                                                                            That makes it a seller’s market.                                                                                                                                             

Precautions

Jacobs said while the coronavirus may have a short-term impact, there are times when people need to sell their properties and Realtors have to be available to help with the sales and transactions.

“We take special precautions with social distancing,” she said. “We take special precautions when showing homes that we observe property distancing, we try not to touch light switches or other surfaces in a home. We’re very aware of our surroundings.”

Interested buyers can view property safely online at www.lakeozarkagent.com, or with any of the real estate agents at the lake. There are limited showings available with safety procedures in place, Jacobs explained.

“We have clients meet at a property rather than drive in one vehicle. We carry sanitation supplies to wipe down areas that might be touched in a showing, and we utilize electronic contracts vs in-person meetings. We cancel open houses or limit open house participants, just to name a few,” she explained. 

“I have every reason to think that with the strong economy we’ve had that we will rebound, but possibly more slowly because people have lost jobs and have bills to pay,” Jacobs said.

Realtors are considered an essential service and are allowed to continue working with safety precautions put in place, Jacobs said. These include limiting the number of agents and staff in the office, sanitizing the workspace, keeping the six-foot recommendation of President and CDC and no more than 10 people in a location.  

Matt Schrimpf of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services sees the same scenario.
“Overall, the first quarter at Lake of the Ozarks was great. The market was hot and appeared to be getting hotter. But the virus has taken its toll on the market just as it has on nearly every facet of business. I am positive, however, that the market will remain strong.”                       Schrimpf said buyers are still searching for homes and sellers still want to sell.  “As Realtors, it is our job to help facilitate these transactions even in trying times,” he explained.                                                                                   To do this, he said, Realtors need to alter their showing methods, alter their communication methods and complete the transaction all the while being safe and respectful of the situation.  “Lake of the Ozarks and all of the beauty it offers shows itself to be an even more desirable place for people around the state in times such as this,” he said.  

Optimistic rates

Even with economic uncertainty, there is optimism within the real estate and lending markets.

Interest rates are at historic lows and could go lower.

Current market conditions are preventing even lower rates, according to Nick Sutterer of MHQ in Osage Beach. 

“Rates are phenomenally low and may go lower once all of the loan applications from earlier this year get moved through the system,” Sutterer explained. “It could be one heck of a season. Current rates are in the upper 2 percent range for 15-year loans and in the lower 3 percent range for 30-year fixed loans. Those numbers are based on good credit and good loan to value purchases.

“There should be no reason to worry about real estate values,” he said. “Values should maintain status quo.”

He noted that lake-area real estate inventories have been low, which pushes prices up – typical supply and demand economics.

“We won’t see the foreclosures we did in the late 2000s,” he predicted, “due to the fact of all the stimulus money being pumped into the economy.” 

There are two reasons that will save the housing markets that are missing from the crash of 2008, Sutterer said. 

First, individuals who do lose their jobs during the virus outbreak are not only eligible for “enhanced” unemployment benefits but can also request that their mortgage payment be put in forbearance during this time of job lost -- and will not be counted late!  

Additionally, the government has ordered that all government foreclosure activity be stopped for the next four months.  

“There’s no reason to panic. Rates will stay low, and the Treasury Department along with the Federal Reserve have stated they will do what it takes to keep the housing market strong.”