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SPECIAL REPORT: Pandemic real estate boom

CBS 13's Mercedes Martinez takes a closer look at real estate in the age of coronavirus

EL CENTRO, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Houses on the market are going faster than expected both in Yuma and Imperial County.

Buyers are quickly contacting listing agents to make appointments as soon as home listings are made public. Some clients sometimes going as far as making offers contingent upon seeing the home.

That’s not how realtors expected the market to be at the start of the pandemic. On the contrary, the pandemic raised many concerns.

Sylvia Rubio, broker and president of Rubio Realty said, “as soon as march hit we were like oh my gosh what’s going to happen? I personally thought that it was going to come to a screeching halt, but it didn’t.”

Jay Goyal a broker at Exit Realty shared his experience and said, "business was slow from April to July.”

Valentina Estes, senior loan officer at Benchmark Mortgage also shared her thoughts saying that she was scared at first. Estes continued to say, "What’s going to happen? Are we going to lose our jobs? Nobody is going to be able to buy houses.”

Despite the fears and concerns, things continued to move along.

Since June there has been a huge demand for homes causing prices to continue to rise.

Goyal said, “due to the pandemic, the federal government is trying to help every person and reduce interest rates dramatically.” He continued by giving an example, “some people can buy, depending on their credit, the home as low as 2.5%, 2.75%, 3%, which is very low and is helping a lot of buyers in making the decision to purchase the homes.”

Rubio also spoke about the rates decreasing saying, “with the rates coming down, people were very motivated. They were saving $200 - $300 on what they would’ve normally paid six months before. So on the same house, a $250,000 house, they were going to pay $300 less.”

But since more people are buying homes now, inventory has decreased while competition for buying a home has increased.

Estes said, “what we’ve been seeing in the last six months is prices are very competitive. People are coming with $2,000, $5,000 $10,000 in cash to get a house because we don’t have enough houses. and this is all over the world.”

Estes was able to help a client from Texas trying to move to California.

The client had to live in a hotel with her two dogs. Once Estes pulled her client's loan from Texas, she was able to find her a home within a month.

Goyal said this is the perfect time to sell. Sellers "are getting top of the market price. We have not seen these kind of prices since 2006,” said Goyal.

Rubio shared advice for those who want to buy. “For buyers, you may be competing. You may be competing against other buyers, so make sure you’re pre qualified with your lender and once you’re ready, you really need to write that offer up really clean. There can’t be a lot of conditions because if there is you are going to be competing with at least four maybe six people,” said Rubio.

Real estate agents have also had to keep up with COVID-19 protocols to help keep their clients safe. One of the precautions being that buyers and sellers must sign a form stating they are COVID-19 negative.

Another measure that is being taken is that only two people can take a tour of the home as opposed to having the entire family.

Rubio said that new normal is to be prepared with hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and even shoe covers. Lenders also have new protocols.

Estes said loan documents had to get signed in a hybrid form, meaning 70% of the documents get signed online and the 30% gets signed in front of a notary. Estes went on to say, "I had an amazing team of notaries. They would go to the house and sign outside on a table in a garage to make sure everybody was safe.”

And fore those struggling to make their payments during the pandemic, there are programs that can help. All people have to do is reach out and ask for help.

Rubio mentioned the forbearance program. "If you have an owner that is behind in payments, or even a landlord who is behind in their payments because they have not been able to collect their rent, the lenders are being very flexible with the forbearance program,” said Rubio.

Some locals are ready to move into bigger homes due to stay-at-home schooling and work.

Jay Goyal says a common question he hears from people is, "what are the expectations on interest rates for the long term?"

Goyal's answer was, “it is impossible for anybody to predict. But due to this pandemic, we don’t expect the federal government to increase interest rates anytime soon.”

Estes shared her overall thoughts saying that, “at the end of the day even though it was a weird year for all of us, I think the economy was good when it comes to real estate.

As Seen on TV / Local News
Author Profile Photo

Mercedes Martinez

Mercedes Martinez joined the KSWT team as anchor/producer in October 2020. You can catch her on 13 On Your Side at 4:00pm.

Mercedes was born in San Diego and raised in the border-town of Calexico, California. She is an Imperial Valley native and definitely no stranger to Yuma county.

Mercedes began her journalism career at San Jose State University as she was a part of their campus newscast that aired every Friday, joined “El Espartano Noticias,” and was an on-air talent for the San Jose Film Festival in 2017. Her highlight during that time was the opportunity to interview actress, Jane Lynch.

Mercedes then continued her journey to CSU Sacramento and received her B.A in Journalism and minor in Communication Studies. She did an internship with Telemundo in Sacramento, which allowed her to gain experience and build relationships.

Mercedes believes that everyone has a story and should use their voice to tell it and inspire others.

Outside of work, Mercedes spends time with her friends and family. She is passionate about cooking, baking, traveling, playing guitar and writing songs.


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