Secrets of the Lehigh Valley Real Estate Market
It's 2020, and the novel coronavirus seems like it'll be with us for some time yet.
But whether you're looking for a getaway from the more problematic urban areas of New York City or Philadelphia, which are both just hours away from the majestic Lehigh Valley by car or train, the burgeoning Lehigh Valley real estate market is booming, and real estate agents are quickly adapting to a post-COVID world that makes touring, as well as buying and selling homes, a bit of a challenge, to say the least.
For some agents that want to capitalize on the renewed interest in the area as a legitimate alternative to the more expensive and larger cities that are nearby, it's true that there are a lot of changes happening in the Lehigh Valley real estate market. Most of it is intended to make the regular experience of buying or selling real estate safer for buyers and sellers that are finding it hard to finalize a home sale in an area that may be under a shutdown order. Inspections and appraisals are also more difficult as people may not be open to inviting someone into their home as the novel coronavirus smolders and spikes across the nation.
But changes are needed. Pending sales dropped almost 80 percent in April alone, compared to 2019 numbers, and in-person real estate transactions aren't getting any easier as we look to be facing another round of closures and lockdowns in the second half of the year.
Today, two people plus a real estate professional can tour a property, and social distancing, masks, and other measures are required. Rooms and surfaces that are touched must also be sanitized in-between visits, but people are warming up to the idea of real estate shopping again, either in spite of the novel coronavirus or specifically because of it, if, say, their current home just isn't cutting it.
Once some of the restrictions were lifted in May, sellers jumped at the opportunity to increase their reach. Many buyers were able to tour a property one day and make an offer the next, which further quickened the Valley's short month’s supply figure that has hovered around just a month and a half to two months in 2020.
Even though the Lehigh Valley real estate market is going through some changes, the actual buying and selling of homes hasn't changed all that much. Sure, there might be some additional paperwork, such as verbal interviews to ensure that buyer, seller and agent are all safe and healthy, and additional checklists provided by state health officials call attention to information gaps, such as whether any maintenance workers or other personnel have entered the home recently.
In general, you won't be able to just show up at a home and request a tour -- all showings, appraisals, inspections, and final walk-throughs are by appointment only, and each agent must keep a record of all appointments with contact information if tracing is needed.
Other agents have turned to technology, meeting with prospective buyers or sellers via video chat to hold important discussions or to conduct virtual tours. Livestreams can also be a big hit, and dozens of potential buyers can see a home before scheduling a more in-depth, personal tour. Some buyers have even been excited enough to purchase a home without that in-person tour, though it's really not the best idea to buy a home without seeing it in person. Paperwork can also be mailed and signed digitally, further decreasing the exposure points for everyone involved.
Upon arriving, potential buyers should expect to see hand sanitizer, disposable booties, and gloves for them to wear while inside, and masks are also mandatory for everyone. Extra precautions are also encouraged, such as not touching doorknobs, handles, switches, and counters, and additional family members will have to wait outside because only three people are allowed inside at a time.
In fact, due to these restrictions, scheduling might just be the most challenging aspect of today's Lehigh Valley real estate market, as crowded open houses are replaced with the meticulously planned comings and goings of one and two people. Since showings can't overlap, buyers may need to wait in their car if a property is already being showed, and they may need to also wait for a few minutes longer for a quick sanitizing to take place before they enter.
But regardless of where and when the next showing for your favorite property is, there's obviously a ton of pent up demand for Lehigh Valley real estate. The market has seen huge jumps in recent weeks, and many people from the surrounding areas are starting to eye the Valley as the place where they would like to be for the near future.
There are a lot of questions and uncertainty surrounding just about everything these days, and Lehigh Valley real estate is no exception. What is clear, however, is that the market's only getting more competitive and strained, so if you think a Lehigh Valley home is in your future, you might want to act sooner rather than later.