It may seem intuitive to look at past recessions, such as the one in 2008, to predict the market during the current recession. But that doesn’t always work, since the circumstances surrounding the downturn may be different. In 2008, what caused home prices to drop was reduced buyer demand and increased foreclosures and short sales. Now in 2020, that’s not happening.
Buyer demand is actually relatively high right now, as a result of interest rates being low. The Fed decreased interest rates in 2019 in expectation of a recession. They were right, of course, but couldn’t have predicted the exacerbating effect that COVID-19 would have. Interest rates can’t get much lower without the Fed going negative, so the market doesn’t have anywhere to go. Foreclosures may be on the horizon if federal and state governments don’t maintain protections. But for the time being, there’s a moratorium on most foreclosures, so there’s no need to drop home prices. Another factor is the lack of construction. With fewer homes being built, especially in the form of affordable housing, low inventory means there’s no competitive pressure on sellers to reduce prices.
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The CARES Act, signed into law in March, provides multiple benefits to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a moratorium on most foreclosures. On August 24, real estate journal First Tuesday pondered what may happen beginning August 31, when the CARES Act was set to expire. However, it was announced August 27 that the moratorium has been extended through December 31.
Even had the moratorium not been extended, First Tuesday said not to panic. The foreclosure process would have to start from the beginning, and it takes time, so homeowners would not be evicted overnight. That said, it’s important that state legislators make efforts to soften the blow even after the federal moratorium ends. Just like foreclosures won’t happen overnight, nor will affected parties recover overnight. Fortunately, there is a statewide bill for California, AB 2501, that seeks to extend it for another 12 months as well as offer forbearance.
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Under Proposition 13, a property’s assessed value doesn’t change very much from year to year, unless the home is sold, in which case its value may or may not be reassessed. But under what conditions is the value not reassessed? Here’s an explanation.
Several types of transfers don’t trigger reassessment. This includes transfers between spouses or domestic partners, from parents to children, or in some cases from grandparents to grandchildren, though it does not include transfers between siblings. Changes recorded without transfer of ownership also do not trigger reassessment. In some cases, replacing a property may also not trigger a reassessment for disabled persons or seniors. Joint tenancy and co-ownership are also factors in determining whether reassessment applies.
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With their most recent update to home sales volume data for California, First Tuesday has the some of the numbers up to June of 2020. While parts of their analysis have not been updated, we do have data comparing month-to-month sales in June 2020 to both May of 2020 and June of 2019, as well as data for year-over-year sales for June of 2020, 2019, and 2018. We’ve also compiled data exclusively for the South Bay, which demonstrates a much more significant difference.
In June of 2020, the month-to-month sales for all of California were 35,300, with a nearly even split between Northern and Southern California. This is a decrease from the June 2019 number of 39,900, but the numbers are up from May of 2020 at 24,000. Looking at only the South Bay, the trend direction is the same, but the differences are much more stark. There were only 75 sales in May 2020 and 95 in June 2020, compared to 376 in June 2019.
This pattern continues to hold for year-over year sales through June. The total for California was 177,500 in 2020, down from 206,300 in 2019 and 223,800 in 2018. Again, the difference is much more obvious in the South Bay. Following 1692 sales through June in 2018 and 1245 in 2019, there were just 433 in 2020.
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The real estate journal First Tuesday asked readers in July how they felt the 2020 recession would impact for-sale inventory. The votes are now in.
A plurality of respondents, 45%, felt inventory would go down. This would likely be a result of both anxiety from sellers and not enough construction. However, the number who instead felt construction would increase and there would be rental vacancies, leading to more listings, was 39%, not too far off from the plurality. The third and final category, those who felt there would be little to no impact, totalled 16%.
But that was July. It’s now August, and there certainly has been an impact. It turns out the 45% were right. Inventory has declined steeply, and construction companies are even more wary about building than they already were before the pandemic. Fortunately, declining rental vacancies points to an increase in inventory as soon as construction starts back up. Changes to California zoning laws also hope to speed up construction.
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California is seeing a rise in heat waves. It’s important to know how to keep safe in extreme weather conditions. Here are some suggested precautions from Senator Steven Bradford.
- Avoid the sun– stay indoors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the burning rays are strongest.
- Drink plenty of fluids– 2 to 4 glasses of water every hour during times of extreme heat.
- Replace salt and minerals– sweating removes salt and minerals from your body, so replenish these nutrients with low sugar fruit juices or sports drinks during exercise or when working outside.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Pace yourself– reduce physical activity and avoid exercising outdoors during peak heat hours.
- Wear appropriate clothing– wear a wide-brimmed hat and light-colored lightweight, loose-fitting clothes when you are outdoors.
- Stay cool indoors during peak hours – set your air conditioner between 75° to 80°. If you don’t have air conditioning, take a cool shower twice a day and/or visit a County Emergency Cooling Center. Find a local emergency cooling center at lacounty.gov/heat.
- Monitor those at high risk– check on elderly neighbors, family members and friends who do not have air conditioning. Infants and children up to 4 years old, people who overexert during work (e.g. construction workers) and people 65 years and older are at the highest risk of heat-related illnesses.
- Use sunscreen – with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 if you need to be in the sun.
- Keep pets indoors– heat also affects your pets, so please keep them indoors. If they will be outside, make sure they have plenty of water and a shaded area to help them keep cool.
It is also recommended to reduce electricity usage to avoid shortages and service interruptions. If you are experiencing difficulties from extreme heat, Los Angeles County has designated Cooling Centers with air conditioning. A list of the Cooling Centers can be found in the full article.
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We’re all well aware that California has been facing a shortage of affordable housing. Affordable housing is also an important step in recovering from the current recession. So, why hasn’t it happened yet? There are a couple of reasons.
It’s true that not enough homes are being built, but it’s more complicated than that. Not enough affordable housing is being built — because it’s actually more expensive to build than high-tier homes. Whenever housing is developed, it’s subject to a development fee, the rules for which are set at the city level, so they’re hard to standardize. The development fee can range from 6-18%, reaching upwards of $150,000 in some cities. The big issue is that this fee is charged per unit, which means that affordable housing developments, which invariably consist of multiple, smaller units, are subject to multiple development fees. This makes it difficult for developers to turn a profit from affordable housing projects.
The other reason is also the same reason it’s so important to our recovery — the job loss from COVID-19 and the recession itself. These factors have reduced purchasing power, increased homelessness, and increased the demand for lower-tier housing. Construction companies can’t keep with the ever-increasing demand for their most expensive, lowest return-on-investment projects.
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As a result of COVID-19, restaurants are looking for ways to reduce the interaction between workers and customers. One solution? Robots. Robot chefs have been around for a while, but weren’t always successful. They’re now gaining more traction as restaurants see them as becoming a necessity.
New plans include a burger-flipping robot named Flippy at White Castle and a smoothie-making robot called Blendid, which is expected to have more widespread availability. Chowbotics reports 60% increased demand for Sally, a salad-making robot, and Wilkinson Baking Co. said they have also been getting more inquiries about their BreadBot.
Some are skeptical, though. Max Elder of Food Futures Lab warns that automation can’t solve all the problems within the food industry, and that offering it as a solution may take attention away from issues that were already in existence before the pandemic began. Elder also says the human factor is important — “Food is so personal, and it needs to involve humans,” according to him. Automated food companies insist they aren’t trying to replace human workers, only streamline the process so that workers can be more efficient, but nevertheless automation does reduce the demand for labor.
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Of course, no one who was laid off during the lockdowns was happy to lose their job. But at least initially, the expectation for most was that they would be returning to their job once the lockdown was over. In most cases, that hasn’t happened, both because COVID-19 has not yet been contained and because many of those positions simply don’t exist anymore.
The economic recession has been difficult on small businesses with tight budgets that are not getting as many customers, but still have the same costs without laying off workers and often even closing down facilities entirely. This means that the same businesses won’t have the extra income to rehire the workers they laid off. Businesses that are transitioning online rather than closing down may be hiring people again once a vaccine is widely available, but probably not the same people — they’re going to need a different skillset. People nearing retirement may be forced to retire early, as most businesses won’t want to hire someone who will only be working there a few years before retiring. All in all, a currently estimated 50% of jobs lost during COVID-19 will not be recovered, despite the estimate being 17% in April.
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Like any living situation, co-living has its pros and cons. An article from the July/August 2020 edition of NAR’s senior newsletter can help you understand what they are. NAR outlines the advantages and potential disadvantages as well as how to mitigate them.
First, the advantages. Sharing responsibilities in the home is sure to decrease the burden on everyone. It’s especially useful if residents have distinct strengths and weaknesses and can complement each other. Residents in a co-living situation also divide costs, whether it’s mortgages as a homeowner or rent as a renter. Another big plus is the social factor. Humans are inherently social, and our physical and mental well-being depends on a sense of community.
Conflict is bound to arise between any people living together. This is especially true when there are power dynamics or physical limitations at play. Homeowners and renters may battle for a sense of control. Differences in health and mobility may place an unexpected burden on some residents. Luckily, many conflicts can be avoided with written agreements and trial periods. Be sure to interview prospective residents and discuss with them matters of finance, cleaning, visitors and pets, scheduling, and private vs common areas and household items. Background checks and credit checks may also be advised.
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