CONTINUING REPORT: How Pandemic is Affecting Local Businesses

Ashley Leigh, founder of Linton Hall Realtors®, has been involved in real estate for 24 years. He has seen good and not-so-good times, sellers’ and buyers’ markets.  COVID-19 has presented a unique situation, but nothing his team cannot handle.

“Fortunately for local homeowners, COVID has not had a negative effect on house prices.” he said.  “Therefore, COVID does not measure in comparison to the dramatic effect on our local market as the 1997/1998 housing crash, where home prices in Prince William County dropped over 40 percent in less than 24 months.  As long as our country continues to move toward reopening, local homeowners will likely escape this crisis without any negative impact on their homes’ values.”

Future uncertainties often curtail moving plans for some would-be sellers, which means less homes on the market.

“There was a significant drop in the inventory level for the first half of 2020, compared to the first half of 2019; 68 percent less inventory compared to 2019’s first half in western Prince William County,” Leigh said.

“Homes are selling faster for more money. How long this run will last is anyone’s guess.”  The average number of days a house is on the market has dropped to approximately 15, down from 2019’s average of 30.

Linton Hall Realtors’ mission, “To serve our clients with distinction, grow our business with passion, and live our lives with balance,” remains constant, and no agents have left during this unique time. Leigh added, “Our agents are performing higher than ever before.”

Some changes have been made to assure the health and safety of agents and clients during the pandemic.

Sales meetings, including title, home warranty companies, lenders, etc., are now handled on Zoom. Due to more video tours, most sellers are opting out of holding open houses.

“With all of the virtual advertising that our team utilizes, our sellers are confident their houses are being marketed to serious qualified buyers,” Leigh said.  “We have implemented a multitude of innovative methods of merchandising of our clients’ properties.  Most of our efforts have been concentrated virtually to enhance our client’s homes.”

“We utilize technology such as our 3D home tours. The 3D walk-through allows you to view every inch of the home in glorious HD 360-degree fashion. You can smoothly glide from the entryway, through the living room and into the kitchen. Even moving up or down stairways is as simple as clicking through. Viewers can virtually walk through the home on their computer or mobile device.”

Linton Hall Realtors also uses virtual transformations, making an idea into reality with virtual interior and exterior renovations, illustrating to buyers what the potential appearance of a completed property could be.

Leigh said, “This includes removing and replacing walls, replacing flooring, adding fixtures, and virtual staging.  We can make an unfinished basement appear to be finished.  We can add a swimming pool, patio, or a fire pit to the back yard.  All of this is done virtually. Also, virtual staging technology allows us to take digital photos of empty rooms and insert furniture, rugs and furnishings into the images. This helps prospective buyers visualize how a potential home might look and helps them connect with the property emotionally.”

COVID-19 has brought innovations to the closing on homes to alleviate fears of all parties. 

Preclosings are popular, without everyone needing to be present.  Closing documents are emailed to clients anywhere in the world, notarized and returned via FedEx.

Leigh added, “The old days of both parties to a transaction being present in the same room are gone forever.”

In the past, Linton Hall Realtors has professionally purchased homes through its cash offer program, often because of some manner of stress for sellers, including death, illness or divorce.

“This year, we have purchased considerably more homes from sellers who simply want to avoid the traditional selling process.  These Sellers are concerned about their own health and welfare and don’t want people coming through their house.  They simply want to sell their properties to us for a fair price in a convenient manner with no hassle,” Leigh said.

Linton Hall Realtors’ property management division that handles in excess of 850 Northern Virginia properties, has seen a strong rental market during the pandemic. New home construction, which always generates higher prices, continues to do well, although the local supply is still limited.  

Leigh concluded, “Local residents should remain vigilant with regard to their moving plans.  Some homeowners have lived through the housing crash of 2007/2008.  For some, it may be a conservative strategy that fits their goals to sell now while the market is high.  For others, a great strategy is to enjoy the ride and continue to build your home’s equity.  Homeownership is a great wealth builder.”

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