How COVID-19 is affecting the hunt for affordable homes in the Triangle

Many people who considered selling their homes back in late February and early March decided they didn't want strangers in those homes while trying to avoid COVID-19.

Many buyers didn't want to venture out either.

Virtual open houses helped but didn't make up the difference according to Raleigh realtor Lewis Grubbs.

"We have learned a lot from this experience," Grubbs, a senior vice president with Coldwell Banker Advantage, told ABC11.

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He said virtual open houses helped but couldn't make up the difference.

So in April he said there was a 5.1% decline in home closings compared to time period last year in the 16-county Triangle Multiple Listing Service area.

But that paled in comparison to sales under contract which were down a whopping 19.3%.

And fewer houses on the market drove up the prices of those that were on the market by 4.6%.

Good news for those selling but it's bad news for those trying to achieve the dream of buying their first home.

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"It means that affordable housing becomes less and less available. As the prices go up, less people are in the position to be able to afford them," said Grubbs who is also the president of the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors.

He said the issue of affordable housing is something that organization has been trying to find answers to.

But COVID-19 has only made the situation worse for those looking for lower priced homes.

"Particularly if they are losing jobs because of COVID," Grubbs said. "Interest rates are still good but people have to have jobs and have to have jobs that pay respectably well in order to be able to afford a home."

Grubbs said agents are looking forward to going back to traditional open houses, with protections of course.

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"If people continue to practice responsible real estate, is the way I like to phrase it - proper sanitation, washing their hands, disinfecting, wearing gloves and masks, social distancing, doing the things that we have learned through this process, we think that should there be another occurrence that we'll weather it well."

He said the industry is hoping the next quarter will see business increase and that the third and fourth quarters make up some of what the first quarter lost to the pandemic.

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