When it became clear that the coronavirus had reached not just Florida but specifically Sarasota, my mind swirled with how this would impact the health of our residents, the stress it would put on Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Doctor’s Hospital and the entire healthcare system, our local economy and, of course, the impact on real estate. 

Life in Sarasota During the Pandemic

As I write this (April 8, 2020) we’ve had nearly 15,000 cases of COVID-19 here in Florida and about 170 cases right here in Sarasota. We are on stay-at-home orders from the Governor Ron DeSantis. Grocery stores are open and fairly well stocked. We are limited to essential services only. Restaurants are closed except for take-out and delivery orders. Beaches are closed. Museums, libraries, state parks, are closed. The list goes on. 

Real Estate as an Essential Service

Real estate is considered an essential service in the state of Florida. There will always be people who need to buy for one reason or another. Consider the family who just recently relocated to Florida; the couple who just sold their home and need to find another home ASAP; the couple expecting a baby and currently living in a studio apartment…while buying certainly has slowed, it has not stopped.

On the flip side of that, there will always be people who are motivated to sell their homes. Perhaps an investor who needs liquidity; a family relocating to another state; a son or daughter who inherits a home; empty-nesters who prefer to downsize; you name it. 

Overcoming Challenges

Realtors are adhering to new standards for touring homes from virtual tours to in-person showings complete with masks, gloves, booties and plenty of hand sanitizer for themselves and their clients.

Title companies have shifted to “no touch” closings with electronic signatures, electronic filing of deeds, and e-notary services with webcams. It’s a big shift from the way we were doing closings just a few weeks ago.

Lenders have tightened their qualifications and are verifying employment at least twice before closing thanks to the overwhelming number of furloughed employees. Just ask any local lender for specifics. 

Homes are Still Selling, in Lesser Volume

How are the numbers looking in the multiple listing service (MLS)? We are holding up surprisingly well.

In a normal market in Sarasota and Manatee Counties in a 24-hour period, we typically have about:

  • 120 new listings
  • 20 “Back on the Market” (sales that fell through)
  • 90 Sold (closings in the last 24 hours)
  • 90 Pendings (listings that went under contract)

Over the last two weeks those numbers are averaging:

  • 45 new listings
  • 42 “Back on the Market”
  • 52 Sold
  • 45 Pendings

Considering the stay-at-home orders, these numbers are surprisingly high. That means loans are still going through, buyers are confident in their purchases, sellers have someplace to go (maybe they are buying too), and all the services related to selling a home are still functioning (home inspectors, title companies, lenders, government services for permits and recording deeds, etc.).

The Story is Still Being Written

Long story short: YES home sales are still happening in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Now, as for prices, I’m monitoring that, too, and will write about that in the next few days as the numbers roll in. Remember, this is all preliminary. More official numbers from Florida Realtor Association and Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee Counties will release the March 2020 numbers on April 21. 

More to come! Stay safe and healthy my friends! 

Christine Pope, your Sarasota REALTOR®