I answered the question for the SoundOff! section of SF Gate for Sunday, January 17th. Here is a somewhat expanded response:

In a word, most buyers simply want MORE than pre-pandemic, and the following trends are expected to continue:

  1. More space within the home: With families spending most of their time at home, they want more space, and more separation of space within the family for home classrooms or offices. Everyone wants their own Zoom room! Those open floor plans that were so popular a while ago? Not so much now. Big kitchens are increasingly valued as folks improve their cooking skills!
  2. More separation from strangers to stay safe. Common areas in condos are now less desirable, as are dependence on elevators. Shared pools and exercise rooms, normally an asset, are largely closed or restricted right now. This could change as vaccines become widespread.
  3. More outdoor space. Areas for outdoor dining, safe exercise, and socially-distanced gatherings will continue to be in demand. Victory gardens have returned: space for growing edibles, even raising chickens. Swimming pools, previously considered expensive white elephants in our temperate climate, are now valued.
  4. More affordable options. With so many employers extending work-from-home indefinitely, many buyers, especially tech workers as well as retirees, are looking to move to less expensive areas of California, if not to other states. Families who are pulling together multiple generations and moving to either rural areas, or moving out of state to form family compounds. I’ve helped two families relocate to Texas in the past few months. But for many of us, this beautiful Bay Area is still too special to leave!

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Surprises Aplenty in the 2020 Real Estate Market!

by arlene on December 30, 2020

Surprises were commonplace in this most uncommon year. One of the first major surprises was just how quickly the real estate market transitioned from on-hold in March, to a very active market as soon as we were declared an “essential service” the beginning of April. I’m grateful for the few buyers of mine who were ready to take advantage of that brief lull, and purchased their homes for what can now be declared as relative bargains. And I’m equally grateful that my last listing benefitted from the increased demand. My lovely seller who has now relocated to Austin received a wonderfully crazy high price. Here’s hoping that the listings that I am working on now to bring on in January and February of 2021 will continue to benefit from this level of demand!

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how much 2020 felt like a normal year in real estate, when everything else around us was far from normal. The showing procedures were changed, as there were no physical open homes. And yet the basic premise was the same as it’s been for the past decade: low interest rates plus too few listings to meet too high demand, resulting in over-bidding and very high prices. Many buyers have been frustrated by that environment and so have decided to leave the…fill in the blank: county, state, or even country. And the prospect of being able to work from anywhere has opened up options for those who thought they would always be tied physically to a location near their employer.

Another surprise is how strong has been the market in what would normally be a seasonal slowdown. We held our breath for a bit around the election and the uncertainty that followed, but slowly activity increased. During the Christmas week the local market experienced a typical seasonal slowdown, but it was far more active than last year: last week 77 new listings came to market and another 31 were new coming soons. Compare that to last year when only 30 came to market. That’s a 300% increase! And I can tell you that we are seeing unusually high activity and prices for December! After a tumultuous and uncertain spring, these numbers are most certainly a gift: The total number of active listings is 49% higher than last year, and the total number of pending listings is 63% higher. Though the strength in our market is not consistent: condos are tending to sit on the market longer than pre-pandemic, as some buyers are avoiding shared facilities. I am hoping in the New Year the renewed optimism felt about our new administration will be reflected in our market.

As I spent time these past few days delivering calendars to clients who live close to me, I was struck by the disconnect between the visual images I see: many restaurants and small shops looking like they are out of business, with windows lined with paper or covered in plywood. Meantime I’m listening to the economic news: “The final week of 2020 began with stock market indexes making record highs.” I know the stock market is not the economy, and is forward looking…but driving past full homeless encampments, and knowing just how many people have been dependent on the stimulus cheques, it feels like the time must come when some balance must be reached between these extreme highs and lows. For the sake of my sellers who hope to enjoy the exuberance of this housing market, I hope it comes after their homes are happily sold!

Wishing everyone a year filled with surprises of a different kind for 2021! How about some sanity from Washington? Or some long-term positive environmental effects of the pandemic? But mostly I would so love to be surprised to hear that almost everyone is doing the right thing, and wearing their masks, socially distancing, limiting gatherings and taking the vaccine as soon as possible. That would be a wonderful surprise indeed!

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FOCUS ON GIVING THANKS for Thanksgiving 2020!

November 19, 2020

Next week instead of large gatherings with many family members and an enormous roasted bird, lots of us will have just immediate family members at our table. So instead of big production meals, we can focus on what really matters: being part of a community, and giving thanks for the friends, family members and for […]

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Follow the Good Witch, and have a Green Halloween!

October 14, 2020

I have always loved Hallowwen, and Halloween 2020 will definitely be one for the books! With the concurrence of  daylight saving time, a full moon, a blue moon, the American Day of the Dead and on a Saturday no less, there is much to be entertained by, observe and celebrate! Even in our new reality […]

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How the recent fires have impacted our Real Estate market

October 9, 2020

With anxiety already high from the pandemic and the election, the fires became the final straw for some clients who now plan to leave the state, or at least leave the highest fire-risk areas of California. Others were only temporarily dissuaded from looking at properties during periods of extremely bad air quality. And many, while expressing […]

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How Open Houses and Property Showings have Changed since Shelter-in-place

July 12, 2020

For the June 30th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle Sound Off column, this was my contribution, plus some additional comments: With in-person open homes still prohibited in the East Bay, agents are instead scheduling Virtual Open Houses, advertised at set times. Instagram Live, FaceBook Live and Zoom are all platforms in use for these […]

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Advantages to First-Time Buyers while we Shelter in Place

May 30, 2020

I was asked to respond to the following question by our publicists, Lion and Orb, and thought I’d share my (lengthy…) response with everyone. Most of the answers really apply to all buyers right now.  What are some ways the pandemic could make it an easier time to buy for first-time buyers? What factors will […]

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Celebrating Earth Day, the 2020 at-home version

April 21, 2020

Honoring the Earth as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day! The Earth has responded to the Great Lull with clearer air, cleaner waters, and the return of many kinds of wildlife. While we can’t gather physically together, there are many wonderful ways to celebrate Earth Day everyday by taking care of ourselves, each […]

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Museums, Aquaria and Zoos to Virtually Visit while Sheltering in Place

April 16, 2020

Museums, aquaria and zoos from around the world have opened their collections to enjoy online, in tours and interviews, both in video and streaming live. The Louvre: You don’t have to book a ticket to Paris to check out some of the famous pieces in the world’s largest art museum. The Louvre has free online tours of three […]

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Changes to Marketing Properties during SIP

April 15, 2020

I answered this question in Sound Off on Sunday, 4/12/2020. Below is an enhanced and updated version of my response that was printed in the SF Chronicle, and is online at SF Gate: “How has the COVID-19 outbreak changed the way you market listings?” A:  Residential real estate was defined an “essential service” in California […]

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