Military travel freeze could chill real estate

The Department of Defense has paused all military travel through May 11, including putting on hold many family’s orders to relocate.
For a real estate market driven largely by military relocations, Navarre realtors are seeing slowdowns. Jodi Van Wagner specializes in military relocation for Keller Williams. She said the impacts of the freeze at this point have been minor.
“At the end of the day, I have clients that were buying new homes that have a freeze on their orders, so we are just getting them extensions,” she said.
The building of one house continues because they expect the client will still be coming, if not a little later than initially anticipated.
“Are we going to see a little slow down? Yes, we are,” Van Wagner said. “But I’m the type of person that is always thinking on the bright side of things but planning for the worst outcome. We just need to stay positive, and we will get through it.”
Real estate agent Paul Berry works for Coldwell Banker as a military relocation specialist. He had two military clients that were looking to buy in Navarre, but now those plans are on hold.
One was set to tour houses in two weeks, but now she is unable to come.
“I’ve had to stop looking at houses,” Berry said. “We had a few lined up, but without her here I can’t do anything.”
In anticipation of slowdowns, Coldwell Banker and others have added a new disclosure to all their transactions. The form explains that impacts from COVID-19 coronavirus may impact timelines for sales and expected closing dates.
Beyond military personnel moves in limbo, social distancing has also caused slowdowns Berry said. He pointed out that limited staffing has caused inspections and appraisals to be delayed. He said one of his appraisals is three weeks behind schedule.
Van Wagner said communicating realistic expectations due to the delays is critical.
Berry said extra hand sanitizer doesn’t hurt either. He said he is sanitizing his and his clients’ hands before and after viewings. He said he is also advising sellers of what surfaces he and his clients came into contact with while touring the homes to make sure cross contamination is limited.
Van Wagner pointed out that she survived the housing market crash in 2008 and the markets came back, albeit slowly. She said this is no different.
“Yes, there will be a concern,” Berry agreed. “However, Florida real estate depends on a lot of different aspects and industries.”
He said some military families are making decisions about housing despite the freeze. Some will choose to sell anyway and find temporary housing until the freeze is lifted. Others will likely continue the purchasing process even if closing may be slipping toward a later date.
And there may be a silver lining to a slow down. Navarre’s homebuilders have been reporting a shortage of supply of new homes compared to demand, and builders have largely been unable to keep up, driving prices even higher according to local economist Rick Harper.
Berry pointed out a lull in buying could help builders catch up, stabilizing the supply and pricing. But he expressed concerns about potential impacts if the freeze were to drag on.
“The bad side is if this continues to occur…if the government starts talking about recession, it could significantly impact the prices of homes. If it is prolonged that could happen,” he said. “That is my only fear for it.”

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