Real estate market staying strong

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Real  estate  market staying strongAs industries across the country take stock of the impacts of shutdowns, restrictions and other precautions aimed at reducing COVID-19 outbreaks, the Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors reports that they are currently surviving — and still poised for a thriving future.

Back in January, incoming RAAR President Carole Vaughn forecast a promising next five years in the Indian Wells Valley market. The outlook was influenced in part by the years-long earthquake recovery effort (see related story, this page) and the heightened demand for housing and rentals.

Then, in March, Gov. Gavin Newsom began issuing directives that restricted operations of “non-essential” industries.

“What happened was, for about 10 days, we were forbidden to show property, except to take care of some rental needs,” said Vaughn. A federal law came into effect March 28, deeming real estate as an essential service. However, Centers for Disease Control have outlined guidelines increasing sanitization protocols, distancing, personal protection and a reliance on virtual showings.

Sales slowed on the local scene, acknowledged Vaughn, but she said that reflects the difficulty in communicating remotely, not the decrease in demand.

“People are still putting their homes on the market and we are still seeing good activity. If the product is there, people will look at it,” she said. “But remember that real estate is still a personal business. Even with everyone working hard on the virtual elements, people still want to talk to a person and look at a home themselves.”

California has prohibited open house events, which also delays distance-friendly showings for people who are only available evenings and weekends.

Still, the IWV is still a seller’s market, said Vaughn. The inventory is relatively low (though many buyers want more new homes and rental properties to choose from). And interest rates are low.

“That can be tricky, since mortgage companies can be leery of interest rates being so low. Sometimes they increase the requirements of buying when that’s the case.” In the meantime, construction projects that were already underway are moving forward.

And while California braces for a possible recession triggered by COVID-19 shutdowns, local officials are predicting that the economic benefits that accompany the rebuild of China Lake will soften that blow for Ridgecrest.

“I think we are probably in a much, much safer place than a great deal of our country,” said Vaughn. “And I’m not talking about how removed we are from the virus, I’m talking about the stability of our workforce and our housing market.

“We will fare the coming crisis much better than a lot of other places in California.”

Pictured: Property sales in the valley are moving in spite of restrictions for in-person transactions. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-05-01