Virtual open houses, tours keep housing market going

SA’s March sales are up 4%; April-May should be more telling

Virtual open houses, tours keep housing market going

SAN ANTONIO – When Chase Bartlett and his wife put their Mahnke Park 1910 craftsman home on the market in late February, it was a strategic move to beat the Spring Break crowd. However, they didn’t know they’d be trying to sell in the midst of a pandemic, stay-at-home environment.

“Of course we’re nervous,” Bartlett said. “We had a lot of great interest in the beginning, but a lot of people, it seems, have bigger things to deal with.”

With children home from school and college campuses and a growing number of people losing their paychecks, there is a lot to deal with.

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Still, March sales for San Antonio showed a modest 4% bump from the same time last year. Median prices rose, too, by 6%, according to data released by the San Antonio Board of Realtors. However, those sales were largely before COVID-19 moved in.

“We are still doing business, though,” said Matt Till, agent with Kuper Sotheby. “It’s just different, the way we have to do it.”

Till had not even heard of Zoom before COVID-19. Now, he and other agents rely on it and other apps for virtual open houses.

Open houses that would typically draw crowds of lookers are out for now.

Instead, Till has taken to showing homes by live video tours, walking through a house himself as the prospective buyer watches and asks questions.

“I’ve sold a few homes sight unseen on Facetime,” he said.

For the in-person showings, Till says he goes equipped with disinfecting wipes and mask.

“We are now asking sellers before they leave the house that they turn on the lights for us and open up interior doors, so we don’t have to touch doorknobs,” Till said.

San Antonio remains a seller’s market with limited, but growing inventory. Economists say April and May sales will be more telling of what impact the coronavirus has on the market. Depending on what happens with the spread of the disease and the lifting of restrictions, some say a slowdown now may result in a boom in sales come mid-summer. Low interest rates are a selling point, too.

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As for Bartlett, he’s glad for the interest he’s still getting in his house. And, he’s hoping to sell soon before he moves to Los Angeles.

“We are already in a position where we’re going to be paying a mortgage here and rent there for a month of two,” he said. “Of course, we’re nervous.”

About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.