Dash Talk

New data shows just how hard COVID-19 is hitting Houston’s housing market

New housing data show just how hard the coronavirus pandemic is hitting the local real estate industry.

Pending sales, a measure of demand that tallies properties that have gone under contract but not yet closed, were down 37 percent in the three weeks ended April 13 compared with the same period of 2019, according to Texas A&M Real Estate Center and Houston Association of Realtors data presented Wednesday.

The decline is a sure sign there will be a drop in closings when the April figures are counted. HAR releases sales and price data each month, and the next set of figures are expected to show the first year-over-year decline in single-family closings in nine months.

The industry, however, has been deemed essential and closings continue to take place. That said, new listings were down 28 percent and appointments plunged 49 percent during the three-week period, according to the housing data, which was presented on a Facebook livestream to members of the Houston Association of Realtors. Closings were off 4 percent.

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HAR tracks market activity handled through its Multiple Listing Service across Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, as well as parts of Brazoria, Galveston, Waller and Wharton counties.

Shawn Dauphine, the association’s MLS director who presented the data, also provided new guidance to agents regarding so-called coming soon listings.

The National Association of Realtors adopted a policy in November effectively banning real estate agents from advertising their listings before putting them on an MLS. All MLS organizations are expected to adopt the policy by May 1.

HAR’s guidelines say Realtors must put any listing on the MLS within one day after advertising it, whether it’s through a social media post, a flyer or a sign in the yard. The fine for noncompliance will be $1,000.

“If you’re working with a buyer and you’re driving around a neighborhood and you see a ‘Coming Soon’ sign, the expectation is you’d be able to look in the MLS and find that listing as well,” Dauphine said.

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For situations where agents want to advertise listings without making them public on HAR.com, they will be allowed to put their listings on a “coming soon” section of the MLS. Other agents would be able to see the listing, but the public would not. Showings would not be allowed while the listing has a coming soon status. After 14 days, if a listing hasn’t been made public, it would have to be withdrawn.

State listing agreement forms have been modified to reflect the changes.

“It’s really informing the seller of the repercussions of public marketing if they chose not to put it in the MLS,” Dauphine said. “The whole basis of the rule is, if it’s marketed to the public it should be available to agents on the MLS.”

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