Is it a buyer's market? A seller's market? Any market at all?
The COVID-19 crisis is affecting real estate and home buying in our area.
"Right now is generally the peak of the market between now and say mid-June and the first of July," said Peter Hunt, chairman and CEO of Hunt Real Estate Corporation.
While this is typically their busiest time of year, amid coronavirus concerns they saw a small drop in sales in March of less than 5 percent.
He expects more of a downturn at the end of this month. Buyers and sellers could be less inclined to make a move while job status and the economy are uncertain.
And then there are the practical issues in the age of social distancing.
"People are just concerned. Do they want to go into somebody else's house that they don't know? Even if it's the greatest house on earth that's exactly for them, do they want to go in there?" Hunt said.
While real estate now has been deemed essential business by New York state, there are some major changes. Hunt is keeping their listing agents from going into homes.
"We avoid person-to-person contact, which really we are under obligation to do right now. We don't want to encourage that. We don't want to be the cause of someone's illness," he said.
Showings must occur virtually, meaning a buyer cannot go into the home to see it, but can look at photo and video tours online or on their phones.
"You get a very detailed tour, and we've even encouraged our sellers to walk around with a technologically-gifted cell phone and just walk around and say, 'This is the power panel, this is the furnace, this is when we put the furnace in,'" he said.
If someone decides to buy a house, meetings and paperwork with agents, banks and lawyers can be done remotely. The home inspection will happen right before closing.
And with many people losing their jobs, Hunt is making sure to verify buyers have employment throughout the process. Still, he says for buyers right now, there's less competition in the Buffalo market, which up until now had been a tough place to find a house.
"They'd make an offer on four or five houses and lose all of them. And now, there's going to be fewer buyers out there. It could be a great opportunity," he said.
On the commercial side, he says some places are having trouble paying their rent or closing altogether, which will have a big impact on property value and create ripple effects for lenders and investors.
Overall, he's optimistic about the outlook for real estate, especially the housing market, once the pandemic is behind us.
He predicts demand could actually create a shortage of housing inventory.
"We expect after that lag, that the demand that wasn't there during that lag will come right back," he said.