From the National Association of Realtors:
The coronavirus is having a mixed impact on the housing market. It’s decreasing buyer traffic somewhat—although in still relatively low numbers—but it’s also not deterring some home buyers and sellers from taking advantage of the lowest mortgage rates in history, shows NAR’s survey, which is based on responses from more than 2,500 real estate professionals.
Sixteen percent of real estate pros say they’ve seen a reduction in buyer interest in their market since the onset of the coronavirus in the U.S. In California, 21% of members reported a decrease in buyer interest, and 19% of members said the same in Washington.
“Given that a home transaction is a major commitment, the uncertainties on how the economy will play out and the spread of the virus itself are barriers to home buying and selling,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The stock market crash is no doubt raising economic anxieties, while the coronavirus brings fear of contact with strangers. At the same time, the dramatic fall in interest rates may induce some potential buyers to take advantage of the better affordability conditions. It is too early to assess the likely impact as to whether lower interest rates can overcome the economic and health anxieties.”
At least in the short term, Yun predicts home sales to be down about 10% compared to what they could have been due to the spread of the coronavirus.
One movement that could lessen its impact, however, is the dip in mortgage rates and its effect on buyers to move ahead with a purchase. More than one-third of members said that their clients are excited by the lower mortgage rates.
Real estate pros credit the lower rates for prompting the majority of home sellers to not make a change in the listing of their home, the survey shows. They want to take advantage of the lower rates on the buying side.
In some areas, the number of home sellers is rising. In California, 12% of members said the number of sellers is increasing because of the desire to take advantage of lower interest rates upon moving, according to NAR’s survey. Nine percent of real estate pros nationwide also reported a higher number of homeowners wanting to sell for this reason. Only 3% of sellers nationwide have decided to remove their home from the market and refinance into a lower mortgage rate so they can remain in their home.
As shutdowns, cutbacks and other coronavirus-related troubles lead legions of Americans to stay away from hotels and airports, numbers are increasing at many public and private California campgrounds, their operators say.
“We’ve actually had record bookings the last couple of days,” said Nick Devane, founder and chief executive of Texino, a company that rents and customizes camping vans. The company, based in the L.A. neighborhood of Silver Lake, opened in late 2018.
“I think people want to avoid airports and they want to get away from cities, and camping is a way to do both,” Devane said.
The California State Parks camping reservation system has also seen a surge — 97,417 reservations made from Feb. 1-March 11, up from 54,825 during the same period last year, spokesman Jorge Moreno said. During the same period, cancellations dipped from 14,248 to 11,992.
These figures, Moreno said, may reflect a combination of factors, including this year’s milder weather. (He also noted that through April 15, the park system is waiving any fees for cancellations or modifications because of COVID-19 concerns.)
Meanwhile, at private campgrounds around the West, varied responses included several owners and managers who said their bookings were stable or better.
“If you’re in a campground, you get to choose how much interaction you have with other people. Plus, you’re in nature,” said Dyana Kelley, Auburn-based president of CampCalNow RV Park and Campground Alliance and chief executive of Campground Alliance, which runs the travel-planning website Camp-California.com. “We’re not seeing a decline in camping. … What we’re seeing is there are significantly higher reservations than normally for this time of year.”
Alyssa Ravasio, founder and chief executive of the outdoors booking site Hipcamp.com, said in a statement Friday, “We haven’t seen a significant impact to our business, although cancellations have risen slightly in the past few days.”
At private RV campgrounds nationwide, “bookings are up by about 4-5%,” said Karen A. Redfern, vice president for brand marketing at the industry group GoRVing.com.
At the Ventura Ranch KOA between Ojai and Santa Paula, which has room for about 148 RVs and 25 tents, owner Scott Cory said February bookings were 14% ahead of last year and the first 11 days of March were 4% ahead of last year.
“Within a month, we’ll probably go up to 95% on weekends,” Cory said.
At Rincon Country RV Resorts West in Tucson, which maintains about 1,100 RV campsites targeted at travelers 55 and older, manager Wendy Bykofsky said her occupancy was also at about 95%, its usual level for March.
Bykofsky did say a few visitors had left the resort early for coronavirus-related reasons, including one couple who headed home to Canada, fearing that the U.S. might close its northern border.
Clint Bell, whose family owns KOA campgrounds in Chula Vista, Temecula and Desert Hot Springs, said he “started to see a more-than-average cancellation rate in the past couple of days” — after the president’s Wednesday TV appearance and Gov. Newsom’s Thursday call for a ban on events of more than 250 people.
That dip seemed to be leveling out by the end of Friday, Bell said.
At Yosemite, Joshua Tree and the state’s seven other national parks, most operations continue as usual, with heightened emphasis on hygiene and some weather-related complications in Southern California.
At Joshua Tree National Park, spokeswoman Hannah Schwalbe said, “We didn’t have a ton of visitation in the park [Thursday], but we also had crazy rain and flash-flooding and we were advising people not to go into the park.” Schwalbe said the flooding has abated and the park’s visitor center, trails and campgrounds will be open as usual this weekend.
Within the hotel industry, occupancy has been dropping. Industry analyst STR reported March 11 that U.S. hotel occupancy March 1-7 dropped 7.3% from the year before, even though rates were 4.6% lower. Those numbers were compiled before President Trump’s March 11 announcement banning most European travelers from entering the U.S. for 30 days starting Friday.
If a traveler is tossing a tent in the car or heading off in an RV, said Jeff Crider, a Palm Desert-based campground and RV industry consultant, “you can always decide for yourself where you want to go and you can change plans at the last minute. … You could cook all your own meals.”
Although tent campers might be sharing campground restrooms, RV campers do not, Crider said, and “you can limit the amount of exposure you have to other people. … It doesn’t have to be a panic situation.”
Indeed, said Texino’s Devane, his customers “aren’t in a state of panic. They’re going camping. They’re not running away.”