The first quarter results for San Juan County maintained the momentum that was present during the last quarter of 2019. As compared to the first quarter in 2019; the data for San Juan Island, Orcas and Lopez all reflected an increase in volume and transaction numbers for the period ending March 31, 2020. San Juan Island had the largest increases with a 48% increase in transaction volume and a 56% increase in number of transactions. Orcas and Lopez had 11% and 16.5% increases in volume and 32% and 0% increases in number of transactions, respectively. Shaw and the other island activity levels are included in the County totals in the chart below.
We were on a great upward trend with loads of promise for the year. Unfortunately, the Pandemic arrived which changed our lives forever and made the statistical data in this report irrelevant. As agents we are authorized by the Governor to list and sell property as providing shelter to those that are in need is an essential service. Some restrictions apply on how we conduct the actual property showings. However, until such time that it is safe enough to allow lodging via hotels, motels, VRBO, B&Bs and clients may travel again, showings will be highly reduced and only processed for those that are in need. The showings that are occurring at the present time are to clients that live in the islands or those accepting of day travel only.
To protect our community, clients and agents; we are using separate cars, distancing, sanitary wipes, gloves and masks. Movers and photographers are allowed but restricted as well. Repairs on the homes under contract are problematic unless they under the health and safety issues such as structural, electric, plumbing and/or septic. Typically, sellers are negotiating a sales price credit for the cosmetic repairs as contractors for this type of work are not considered essential.
The County is operational, so we can obtain pertinent property information such as copies of the septic inspections, septic permits, certificate of occupancys and building permits for property listings.
Escrow, insurance, lenders and title are closed to the public, but operational, so we have been able to close the transactions currently pending. During this period, the state allows remote notary and escrow is signing the clients via an electronic signature or drop off basis only. Most staff at these firms are working at home; however, some are at the office but not working directly with the clients.
Surveying, well testing, home inspections and bids for the repairs are all on hold until we have safer conditions.
The NWMLS developed a new form to allow for automatic extensions to maintain and manage the existing contracts and any new contracts written. This allows us to adjust to the service providers schedules without voiding or placing one of the parties in default of the contract. The NWMLS is also considering adjusting the Days on Market for those properties currently listed but inactive due to the crisis.
Good news is we are able to close pending transactions as well as any new ones. The not so good news is we are not replenishing the number of pending transactions with new escrows. Unfortunately for several buyers, they had to rescind the transactions as they were furloughed, laid off or had their hours cut. Many buyers are just delayed. Overall, I think that the crisis has convinced people that living here is a good option.
As comparison, on April 2, 2019, San Juan County had a total of 470 listings of all types with 59 pending and a net active of 411. On the same date, San Juan Island had 203 total listings with 23 pending and a net active of 180. Last year was very similar to this year on the same date; however, with the increase in closed transactions during the first quarter, lack of showings, lack of new contracts, eventually the numbers will start to reflect a change. We are not replenishing the pending transactions at this time. I personally went from maintaining 14 in escrow since the fall of 2019 down to 5 at the present time. I have one showing scheduled safely this week.
Even though Zillow, REALTOR.COM, Trulia and other similar sites have high traffic, the number of saved properties and leads generated from the platforms is down considerably. People are viewing the listings but understandably, unable to schedule viewings.
Thank goodness for the technology in our industry with our service providers and communication platforms, as agents are able to do their jobs remote and safely. Our clients can still be serviced, and all deserve a high level of customer service and a knowledgeable agent with experience in the industry. Even though we have all the new “bells and whistles”, real estate is still a people industry and it comes down to relationships. Real estate is local and boots on the ground are critical.
Historically, I have always said in my articles and videos that if there was a major event, I wanted to be sure I was in the Islands. San Juan County is a proactive County with a comprehensive pandemic plan and has the proper restrictions in place at the present time. I feel safer here surrounded by my community and friends as I believe them to be a responsible and considerate population. Further, during this time of adaptation, we live in paradise with our parks, walking trails and rural neighborhoods.
Although my office is closed to the public, we are working remote and able to service our clients. I look forward to reporting a better real estate market update in the future. The momentum will return to our market once we all get through this crisis.
As always if you need additional information, please be sure to contact me. To read all my past market updates and industry related articles or view my San Juan Island Lifestyle videos, please visit my blog at: http://sanjuanislandslifestyle.com/blog/
Merri Ann Simonson