We are in the final month of 2020, and I have never been so happy to see a year come to an end! For the most part, 2020 was a great year for home sales, but it has been a year filled with anxiety and so many ups and downs and unknowns. Many people started decorating for Christmas immediately following Halloween in order to push 2020 to an end sooner.

While I am ready to put 2020 behind me, I am also grateful for everything that I learned from this year. 2020 was the year that we all learned to slow down and smell the flowers again.  The economy may have slowed down, but so did everything else.

I know I am supposed to talk about what to expect with the housing market in 2021, but I think it is best to end the year on a positive note and instead reflect on the good that came out of 2020.  While a year of lockdowns, social distancing, and unemployment brought on new stress, this was also a year when we all learned to appreciate our loved ones and nature again. Like birthday parties, soccer games, and after work activities came to a halt, families learned to spend time together by throwing the ball outside or walking in the park again. The earth breathed a sigh of relief and so did we.

As we head into 2021, remember the story The Great Realisation told by Tom Foolery, https://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/story/the-great-realisation/,  and remember how we all started baking, laughing, singing, and dancing again instead of commuting, working, and running around with crazy schedules.

Please join Energy Realty in making donations to the Christmas Store at Family Point Resources from December 9-11 by going to signupgenius.com and finish 2020 on a positive note.

Happy holidays to everyone! We will see you in 2021.

Written by Sherry Campbell

Temperatures are cooling in Houston, but the political environment is heating up as we prepare for the most contentious presidential election in over a century.

Real estate sales typically cool during the fall by 9.8 %, according to a study by BTIG, a research and analysis company, and during an election year, sales typically decrease by 15%. However, 2020 has not been a typical year, and in fact has been one of the most challenging years I have experienced in my lifetime, with a global pandemic, record unemployment, and social unrest.

While COVID-19 has negatively impacted many businesses, home sales have been increasing by record numbers this year, and we have not seen them slow down yet but there could be a slow down around the corner for us.

Why would home sales slow during an election year? I often ask this question myself and there really is no logical explanation other than the fact that people buy homes (or anything else) when they are confident that the economy will remain strong and home values will go up. The decision to wait until after an election is usually short-lived as BTIG determined “This caution is temporary and ultimately results in deferred sales, as the economy, jobs, interest rates and consumer confidence have far more meaningful roles in the home purchase decision than a Presidential election result in the months that follow.”

What could impact our home sales in Houston more than the election are low oil prices. We may as well call out the elephant in the room- most of the major oil companies have announced major layoffs worldwide, and let’s face it, Houston’s economy is still 30% reliant on the oil industry. I wish I could offer assurance to our clients that the housing market will remain strong, but I will instead take the position to approach this market with caution.

The Houston real estate market tends to follow the oil industry by 6-12 months, so sales could remain solid for another 6-12 months, especially if interest rates remain low. Also, please remember that our housing market is hyper-local, which means that while the home sales in the suburbs remain strong, some markets like the Energy Corridor and the Woodlands have not yet recovered from the last oil downturn in 2015.

Homes that are freshly updated or that offer amazing outdoor space seem to sell in any of these markets, but the other word of caution is that even these homes are extremely price sensitive. Over-priced or outdated homes will linger on the market, so please talk to a real estate professional about what you can do to sell your home.

Written by Sherry Campbell

As we head into the fall, headlines have slowed down the focus on COVID-19 and we are now  focused on the upcoming Presidential election. Typically during an election year we see the housing market slow over the uncertainty of who will take office and how will it affect the economy.

Buyer activity slowed the first few weeks in August as parents scrambled to prepare children for the start of school. This year is unlike any other year as most parents found themselves home schooling yet again with concerns over the pandemic still looming. Although most of the schools plan to open after Labor Day, there is still a lot of uncertainty over whether or not we will see the cases spike again as schools re-open.

There is so much to be uncertain about this year, but the one certainty we are all faced with is that our homes are the center of everything we do today. We work, play, and attend school in our homes, so the drive to find more space may have slowed down some, but I don’t think this election year will affect our housing market the way it typically does.

While I would love to only discuss the housing market, we are less than 60 days away from the election, and I want to urge all Americans to vote. Over the past several decades, voter turnout among US citizens has averaged around 45% for midterm elections and 57% for presidential elections.

As the leader of the Democratic world, the United States should be leading the charge in voter turnout, yet in 2016, we ranked #31 out of 34 countries in voter turnout.

There are so many reasons that people choose not to vote, ranging from lack of convenience or time to dissatisfaction with the options presented at the polls. I have even heard people comment that they feel their vote will not make a difference, so they choose to remain indifferent. I can assure you that every vote counts in this country and we all need to step forward and vote this year.

You have to register to vote at least 30 days before the election, so the clock is ticking. Every vote counts and it is your chance to have a voice in how this country is run. Watch this great video on why you should vote https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4_r-F3KalY .

Registering to vote only takes two minutes and you can register online at this site:

https://www.votetexas.gov/register/index.html

Voting is also easy and early registration starts on October 13, so mark your calendars. The earlier you vote, the easier it will be. The same sight above will also tell you where you can vote. Please take 5 minutes out of your today to register to vote and another 5 minutes to vote on October 13.

If you are feeling uncertain about the future, it is time to take charge and participate in making a difference.

Written by Sherry Campbell

August is typically a huge vacation month in Houston as temperatures soar and residents leave the city for a final break before the start of school, but these are not normal times. People are still reluctant to fly or travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, so most are not venturing far from home these days.

My annual trek to Montana for a break in the mountains is being replaced by a last harrah in Galveston next weekend, just like many others seem to be doing these days. How has this affected our housing market? Typically, home sales slow in the month of August for the reasons stated above, but today, the home is the center of everything we do, so instead of spending money on travel, the need for a housing upgrade seems to still be driving home sales at a fast pace.

The housing frenzy of June and July has slowed a bit, but the suburbs are still hot as people search for more space both indoors and outdoors where they can cocoon for the next year until this pandemic is under control. Buyers are looking for outdoor space, especially a home with a pool, and larger homes with home offices and game rooms if they have children. The trend to downsize to smaller spaces in the city where commutes are shorter has taken a 180 degree turn as more people are working from home and home schooling kids so they require more space and are no longer worried about a commute.

This is also an election year, so it will be an interesting fall. Home sales typically slow during an election year, but this is not a typical year. Mortgage rates are also at historical lows, making that larger home more affordable than ever, so it is the ideal time to buy a house and prepare for a slow return to “normal”.

There are so many factors looming in the horizon that could affect the housing market, including low oil prices.  Houston’s economy relies heavily on the oil industry and almost every oil company is announcing major layoffs this fall. We cannot predict the outcome of 2020, but we should be prepared for a bumpy ride!

Written by Sherry Campbell

Happy Independence Day America! The 4th of July is symbolic of so many things, including the middle of summer and summertime activities.  I have so many great memories of large gatherings on the 4th of July and sitting on a lawn with a crowd of people watching the fireworks, but this year was quiet.

The Shell Freedom Over Texas canceled the live concerts and City Centre canceled both the concerts and the fireworks. It was a quiet 4th of July, and I found myself wondering if this holiday will ever be the same again. With Covid-19 cases surging across 32 states, and Texas leading the charge, the Governor announced no more social gathering of more than 10 people again, and masks are now mandatory in every county that has reported 20 plus cases of COVID-19.

These are unprecedented times in world history and the impact may be far greater than we originally anticipated. When Houston first went into lockdown mode in March, we saw home sales slow by 20% for the month of April and then slowly rebound in May when Houston started Phase 1 of re-opening the city. By the end of June, home sales were surging alongside of the pandemic, and many of our agents reported being “busier than ever”!

As the COVID-19 cases were surging, the Governor announced the closure of bars across the state a week before the 4th of July, and the market reacted again. It is too early to tell how the real estate market will be impacted by the latest surge of this pandemic, but there was a definite slow down in showing activity in the last week of June.

At the beginning of May, I predicted that our Summer market would be hot with home sales as housing needs changed and many people started looking for more space as a result of spending more time at home.  I also urged many sellers to consider that the market could shift again after August so it was important to price homes to sell by the end of the summer, or we could see more inventory sitting on the market this fall. However, I can only speculate, and if we have learned anything, one event can cause our market to shift overnight.

The good news is that mortgage rates are at historical lows, so homes are more affordable. As we all spend more time at home, our homes are becoming the center of every activity. This is our new normal, and the good old days of large gatherings may not return until we find a vaccine.  Energy Realty is committed to assisting our clients during these difficult times, but we ask that everyone stay safe, wear a mask, and help stop the spread.

Writer – Sherry Campbell

Tomorrow George Floyd’s body will be laid to rest in Houston, but the United States cannot rest until we unite together as a nation and demand change-we must stand together and stop senseless killings and racism once and for all.

The founding principles of America are Equality- The First Principle is that all Persons are created equal.

We can unite peacefully, but we must unite and insist on change. Every person in the United States should be able to feel that they will be treated equally by law enforcement, businesses, employment, schools, healthcare, housing, and the list goes on.

These are troubling times with the spread of COVID-19 already killing so many Americans. No person should be afraid to walk on the street and face a senseless death. The death of George Floyd represents a history of racism and deep rooted history that must be put to rest with his body.

As a business owner, I feel that it is my duty to stand up for what I believe in in these troubling times.  There are many fights that we will have to endure as Americans, including COVID-19, so why do we need to continue to fight each other? We are all American and we should defend the rights of every person.

Our hearts go out to George Floyd and his family and every black American that has faced fear and persecution for any reason. Our office is dedicated to providing the same level of service to every American, with no discrimination – this is the way it should be. Energy Realty is a team of International Realtors and we are here to support our community during these difficult times. We stand behind equality and Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter.

Writer: Sherry Campbell

May 1 was opening day in Houston and marked 6 weeks since the Stay At Home order was issued in Houston.  During Phase 1 of the re-opening, restaurants are starting re-open and some other non-essential businesses, and while we saw restaurants busy immediately, there are still a lot of people who are reluctant to leave home.

Although Real Estate was deemed an essential business and technically remained open, we saw the market slow down at least 50% when the Stay At Home order initially went into effect.  As the city starts to re-open, home viewings are picking up as well, but we are not near the normal levels of activity  that we should see this time of year.

While no one can predict how and when Houston’s real estate market will rebound, the immediate future is looking brighter every day. As I write this blog on Mother’s Day weekend, my phone is blowing up with inquiries on listings and showings are picking up every week.

In my opinion, there will be a shift in housing needs, and the shift will occur quickly this summer. As we spend more time in our homes (or apartments) we are all reevaluating our housing needs, and in most cases, we had 6 weeks to think about it. The home office and space to home school kids will become an essential in every home for a family, and the desire for outdoor space, including private swimming pools will increase.

According to pool contractors, they have been busier than ever as people invest in installing a private pool in their backyard. Realistically, people will stop going to public swimming pools or attending events with large crowds. Apartment living may lose it’s appeal as populations decide to  sequester in a private single family home where they can maintain a distance from other people.

We are all adapting to the “New Normal” and that will include how we live, work, and play. Energy Realty is adapting by learning how we can assist with buying, selling, and renting homes in a world where COVID-19 still exists. In order to make sure that we are here for the public, we have established strict protocol for showing homes and meeting with clients. Out office is now open Monday-Friday, but we will only see clients in the office by appointment only.

Our agents will take precaution to not only keep themselves safe, but also our clients with a strict requirement that all parties wear masks and gloves when needed. When an occupied home is for sale, our agents will accompany showings to make sure all parties that are viewing the home are following our COVID-19 Protocol and keeping the seller and their family safe as well.

In addition to taking extra precaution to keep our clients and agents safe, we are also fast-tracking into a world of technology. Virtual tours are now a requirement for all listings, and we are becoming quite savvy at the Virtual Open House. HAR launched a new Virtual Open House program that allows us to show a property online during a fixed time.

Stay tuned as HAR permits live open houses again beginning next weekend. Energy Realty will be testing open houses again, but we will have to limit the number of people in a home at one time.

It’s a new world out there, but if we work together, we can make it better! Check out my Podcast on the Real Estate and the New Normal with Dawn Moore of Allegiance Title.

Writer – Sherry Campbell

Energy Realty wants to remain a resource to our community, and we are here to answer questions about the housing market and beyond. While we do not claim to be experts on the Coronavirus, we have gathered some helpful information about financial assistance to answer some of the questions:

Dear Clients, Agents, Friends, and Neighbors.

We hope this letter finds you all safe and healthy.

At the time of writing this, over 290,000 Americans have Coronavirus, and over 7500 have died. A Stay At Home order is now in effect until April 30, 2020, but real estate services have been deemed essential by local officials. People have to have a place to live, and some sellers have to sell now.

Although first and foremost, we have a moral obligation to Stay Home and Flatten the Curve, we are still trying to figure out how we can also assist our clients. Since the Stay Home order was issued, showings have dropped over 45%, indicating that most agents and buyers are not viewing properties at this time, so in most cases, we are advising sellers to delay listing their homes until the order is lifted.

Energy Realty is attempting to return to a “new normal” by opening our offices with minimum hours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so we can receive clients by appointment only when necessary. We are also fast tracking to virtual technology and video conferences to assist while maintaining a safe distance.

Qualified buyers are still able to get mortgages, title companies are still able to close transactions (in person, electronically, or via mobile notary), and movers are still moving. A recent Coronavirus Addendum was added to our Contracts to protect buyers in the event of coronavirus infection or job loss.

Not every agent feels comfortable showing homes, and I encourage every agent to only show a home that is vacant and with extreme safety precautions. TREC just created a form that requires all parties to permit showings or viewings and to disclose if they have or have been exposed to Coronavirus. Most importantly, we will continue to keep our clients informed with how we can help during this difficult time.  We are currently operating under the following capacity

We do not know what the real estate market will look like once the Stay Home order is lifted, but we do know that our housing market was strong when this started. Houston has been through lots of challenges and this may be the toughest one yet, but this is a great place to live with a vibrant community. Remember, we are in this together and will keep Houston Strong!

Please stay safe and well and we will stay in touch.

Warmest regards,

Sherry Campbell-Broker/Owner-Energy Realty

Every time I turn on the news, there is another scary story about the spread of the Coronavirus. People are now preparing to stock their homes with a month’s supply of groceries in the event that we are all not allowed to leave our homes until the virus is contained. Is that out of a Will Smith movie?

Meanwhile, home sales have continued to pick up the pace as more communities are seeing multiple offers on homes. The Coronavirus is causing a scare in the financial world, so feds are continuing to drop interest rates so we are now seeing interest rates as low as 2015 when our housing market was a seller’s market.

Are we heading into a seller’s market again this summer? I sure hope so! Parts of Houston have already entered into a seller’s market, including the Heights, where homes are receiving multiple offers within days of listing. In these markets, buyers are offering above list price to compete. We have even seen some multiple offers in the Energy Corridor and Katy, so the indicators are looking good.

Will the Coronavirus turn our market upside down again? Oil prices and stock markets have been plummeting as news of the virus spreading around the world is creating a scare. Conferences and travel are being cancelled daily as people choose too minimize their risks and stay home. How can we continue to conduct business if we don’t travel in a world where our economy is reactive to world economies?

It seems crazy to let a little virus cause so much damage over night so I hope our world leaders figure out a solution to this problem quickly. Meanwhile, if we have to be holed up in our houses, perhaps finding the right home becomes even more important. The good news is that our real estate market in Houston typically reacts to oil price changes within 6-12 months. Buy your homes this summer then stock up on groceries!
Writer – Sherry Campbell

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