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Real estate industry feels impact of COVID-19

With so many parts of life put on hold because of the COVID-19 crisis, the real estate industry fears the housing market will be the next to come to a grinding halt.

LANCASTER, Pa. —

In Jan. 2020, the Harrisburg real estate market had 383 homes listed for sale. Real estate listings take weeks to reflect current trends, but by March—when coronavirus cases began to rise—home listings had fallen 16 percent to 322.

With so many parts of life put on hold because of the COVID-19 crisis, the real estate industry fears the housing market will be the next to come to a grinding halt.

"For most, it’s a situation where we’re just going to hit the pause button,” said Adam McCallister of McCallister & Myers real estate

COVID-19 has changed how business is done; under Gov. Tom Wolf’s order for non-life-sustaining businesses to shut down, realtors can’t physically be in the homes they’re selling. 

“Showing the properties, doing pre-sale walk-thoughs, home inspections, all the things that require our physical presence to assist the process,” said Jordan Piscioneri, a realtor at Century 21 Realty and president of the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors.

Many realtors are adapting with virtual tours, as well as safeguards for buyers. On Friday the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors put out a COVID-19 addendum for all sale contracts.

“Still allowing you to purchase the home with the ability to say when we actually get to view the property live and in living color, if it doesn’t match what we thought we wanted we still have an out,” McCallister said.

Before the crisis, the Harrisburg area was a seller’s market, meaning there was more demand to buy than houses available for sale. The shutdown will likely exacerbate this imbalance, realtors said.

“You’re going to have no new inventory coming in over the next few weeks and when this opens up you’re going to have a whole lot of buyers that are jumping at the bit to go and buy houses,” Piscioneri said.

There’s still a lot of interest in both buying and selling homes, realtors said, but also uncertainty about when to close on a new home or hand over the keys.

 “It’s foolish to think we’re not concerned with it, because none of us have a crystal ball to figure out what this all looks like,” McCallister said.

Closing agreements made in the last few weeks will still be completed, realtors noted, but they feared future closings that would have happened in April and May might be delayed.