Miami Real Estate: What it’s like Buying a Home During COVID-19

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the US housing market has experienced increased volatility, and the real estate industry has responded quickly to the abrupt changes by adjusting processes to fit the “new normal” for the time being. Nationwide, the industry has shifted in order to continue doing business and to implement all the necessary safety precautions, but this all looks a little different market-to-market.

Many of the trends we’re seeing during COVID-19 in Miami real estate all come down to property type. For single-family homes, the Miami real estate market still remains in favor of the seller, and has seen minor changes in buyer demand and inventory. For condos in Miami, the demand has decreased as inventory increases, creating a buyer’s market. We’ve asked Redfin agent Maria Garcia-Gonzalez to share her expertise in the Miami real estate market, and her experiences in the field during the pandemic.

What are home tours like for potential homebuyers in Miami? 

Virtual home tours have become increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic as an option for potential homebuyers to tour the home instead of visiting the property in person, but some housing markets are seeing this feature used more than others. When the stay-at-home and shelter-in-place order was issued in Miami, virtual home tours was the preferred option. Now, it really just depends on the property type. 

According to Redfin Agent Maria Garcia-Gonzalez, “To begin with, we only offered virtual tours and people really embraced it, they were super into it. Now we’re giving clients the option to do an in-person or virtual tour. Those who decide to do an in-person tour are really careful and are always wearing masks and protective gear,” says agent Garcia-Gonzalez.

“Potential homebuyers are doing more in-person tours, especially if it’s single-family homes and vacant homes. I’ve only had one offer where the buyer didn’t see the home in person. But, it’s a different story for apartment buildings and condos, especially occupied units. Because of Coronavirus, many sellers don’t want others in their homes.”

Has the pandemic affected the competitiveness of the Miami housing market? 

Spring is typically the busiest season in real estate, and this still holds true for the Miami real estate market during the pandemic. In fact, during COVID-19, Agent Maria Garcia-Gonzalez has experienced homes selling in less than 24 hours.

The Miami real estate market is still somewhat competitive, but the property type plays a big role in just how competitive. “I still have many single-family homes with multiple offers and very fast sales,” said Garcia-Gonzalez. “Condos, however, are a dime a dozen – prices have lowered and competition has decreased”. 

This could be a result from quarantine, as buyers’ preferences shift towards favoring more room and less people. According to Maria, “In Miami, people are avoiding crowded buildings and prefer a smaller house with a backyard for the same price as a small condo.”

Have stay-at-home orders postponed closings?

The Coronavirus has put Miami real estate to the test in more ways than one, but that hasn’t stopped closings from happening, they’re just being done electronically through eClosings.

“I still haven’t had any closing postponed or canceled due to the pandemic. We’ll work with the lenders and the title company to try to actually move the closings sooner rather than later.” Says Garcia-Gonzalez. 

During the pandemic, the real estate industry has been changing quickly so it’s important to close as soon as possible. “Right now, the financial end is very volatile so it’s especially important to close quickly, Says Maria. “Restrictions on mortgages can change very quickly, so it’s important to keep in touch with the title company and lenders to make sure the buyers and sellers are ready to close.”

Is the Miami housing market currently in favor of buyers or sellers?

“For single-family homes, the current market is in favor of sellers and homes are selling for the asking price, or very close to it. There isn’t much inventory and the homes that are available are going fast,” says Maria. “We’re seeing the opposite trend with condos. Prices are getting lower and there is a large inventory, even relative to other markets.”

Can you tell us about your experience closing on a home in Miami while social distancing? 

“We are all getting really creative in order to follow COVID-19 guidelines and close on homes,” says Garcia-Gonzalez. “We all met in the parking lot of the title company, where they had set up a foldable table outside. The client, the listing agent, and I as the buyer’s agent, all remained in our separate cars to ensure we were social distancing. We all wore protective gear and masks and one by one, the title company called each of us forward to sign.”

How is the COVID-19 clause protecting clients? 

Because of the amount of uncertainty in the market currently, real estate agents are adding special verbiage to new and existing contracts to protect their clients and allow delays in deadlines due to COVID-19 that would otherwise be met. The clause references the Coronavirus specifically and offers flexibility during the challenging time. Many of the milestones that are typically met during the homebuying process may not be feasible in the current state of the market. Perhaps one of the parties involved can’t meet the agreed-upon move-out date, someone begins to feel sick, or the house inspection isn’t performed on time. The Coronavirus addendum could allow for additional time for certain scenarios. 

“I include the COVID-19 clause in all of my contracts and it’s been welcomed with open arms,” says Garcia-Gonzalez. “It’s extremely important to include the clause in my contract to protect against any open permits, liens, violations, or anything on the property that the seller should take care of before closing, or the buyer may walk out on the contract.”

Who can step foot inside the homes during the homebuying process? 

During the pandemic, people still need to move and still need a place to live, so Miami real estate is considered an essential business. We’re still closing on homes and hitting all the milestones during the homebuying process. Everyone involved has thought of inventive ways to still do business while taking all the necessary precautions and wearing protective gear.

According to Maria, “Inspectors and agents are still allowed in homes, and as of April 21st, appraisers are not allowed in homes. To estimate the value of the home, appraisers have been working with comps, photos from the MLS, and the exterior of the home.”

“We’ve really had to lean on each other and it’s been a big collaboration between all of us,” says Garcia-Gonzalez. “I write the contracts and work with the inspectors over the phone all while our associate agents tour with the clients.” 

What is your one piece of advice for potential homebuyers in the Miami housing market?

“Even though we’re experiencing a pandemic, the Miami housing market is still a very strong market. It’s an attractive market, a great place to invest and taxes are a lot lower than they are on the West Coast or in the North,” says Redfin agent Maria Garcia-Gonzalez.

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