Wednesday, April 1, 2020 – 2 a.m.
Renee and Dennis Palsgaard are starting their move to Southern Nevada on Wednesday. They are putting their two cats and a dog in their sedan and making the eight-hour drive from San Jose, Calif., to Henderson to settle into the house they just bought to enjoy their retirement.
Normal enough, right? Well, not exactly.
They haven’t visited Henderson over coronavirus fears, meaning “the first time we see (the house) will be when we pull into the driveway Thursday morning,” Renee Palsgaard said. “We had to do it this way. We didn’t have a choice.”
Renee Palsgaard has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — two respiratory conditions that, along with her age, make her a high risk for the virus. The Palsgaards had plane tickets to visit the area two weeks ago but canceled their flights to avoid exposure.
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They asked their valley resident daughter and real estate agent to take it from there. A combination of FaceTime, virtual tours and the stamp of approval from their daughter helped them decide, and the couple e-signed all the important paperwork. They’ll arrive on Thursday, but since San Jose is an area heavily impacted by the virus, they plan to self-quarantine for a few weeks before exploring their new city.
“I’ve never been on a ventilator and I’d like to keep it like that,” Renee Palsgaard said.
The Palsgaards were able to buy their home despite the pandemic, but not everyone is as lucky.
Ming Wu Sieberth is having trouble selling her Summerlin house, even lowering the price to try to get it to move. She bought it in 2006, fought through the recession in 2008 to keep it and was finally ready to sell as the market hit its peak.
Now she doesn’t have any takers.
“There’s some showing, but you don’t see any serious interest at all,” Sieberth said. “Maybe in this uncertain time, people are more cautious about moving forward with a big purchase.”
It’s too early to project how much coronavirus will impact the Las Vegas housing market, local experts say.
Earlier this month, the Las Vegas Valley set a new high-water mark for median home prices at $316,000, according to a report released by Las Vegas Realtors.
Numbers have not been released for March, but the association president Tom Blanchard said it’s going to be nearly impossible to replicate that number because of the virus.
“It would be irrational of me to say everything’s remained the same,” Blanchard said. “It may — and I’ll use capital M-A-Y — it MAY be too early to sound that alarm, but let’s look at the facts.”
Those facts include the shrinking inventory of available homes for sale in Las Vegas. At the beginning of the month there was less than a two-month supply of homes, where a six-month supply typically indicates a balanced market. Pulling homes off the market continues to lessen the supply.
“Is this going to change us forever in some way, shape or form?” said Mark Stark, CEO of realty firm Berkshire-Hathaway in regions that include Nevada. “Probably.”
Even the way Realtors do their jobs is changing. Instead of the old formula of seeing a house then making an offer, many Realtors are encouraging buyers to tour a home virtually, then place an offer with a contingency of seeing the house in person later. When in the past Realtors would show a handful of houses to clients and their families, now Realtors are encouraging just the decision-makers to tour the house.
Some brokers aren’t even showing occupied houses, sticking to vacant homes to reduce the risk of spreading infection. They wear gloves, try not to use the restrooms and have disinfecting wipes at the ready.
“The whole dynamic of even just showing homes has changed,” said realtor Terry Nacion of XPand Realty. “We’re kind of running on a skeleton operation.”
Many Realtors don’t anticipate a sort of economic collapse the industry saw in 2008, citing the temporary nature of the pandemic, as well as hopes that when it ends people will return to work and return to buying houses.
Stark shares that optimistic long-term view. With more people spending time at home, he thinks this period of isolation is bringing to light how important it is to have a home that you want to be in.
“This could put a rush to home ownership because you know what, this is my castle; this is my place I can go,” Stark said. “How that will work with the buyers’ psyche of ‘you know what, if I’m going to buy anything, I’m going to buy a nice home that I’m comfortable and feel good about,’ I think that can be part of the plans.”
Stark said he doesn’t know if and when that surge could happen. Right now, everyone is adjusting to the new reality. Some are holding off on selling houses, some are rushing to move into a new one, and some like Renee Palsgaard are taking a blind-folded leap.
“Maybe it’s not the best way to do it, but right now in these times, there’s no choices,” she said. “Who buys a house sight unseen?”