Beach House

Just as the Malibu real estate market started recovery after the Woolsey Fire and sales were picking up in 2020, the world then turned upside down in March with the novel coronavirus pandemic. This has forced Malibu’s No. 1 business to readjust selling and marketing one of its greatest assets: real estate. 

“When the pandemic hit, a lot of sellers and buyers were on hold,” Bianca Torrence, a broker with Pritchett-Rapf, described. Malibu properties are always hot commodities so brokers and agents adapted quickly with safety protocols in order to keep the market moving. 

If you are thinking of buying or selling property, know this: There are no open houses currently. Most showings now are virtual. Because many home sellers do not want potential buyers traipsing through their properties possibly exposing them to the virus, they use Zoom for virtual showings and other new technologies including The Malibu Times’ Print-to-Digital application—readers can hold their phone cameras over a QR code to get a 3D peek at homes and virtual tours. 

For rare in-person showings, masks and gloves must be worn and couples will be asked to tour homes one-on-one with agents—that is, each spouse separately. 

“Basically, our job as Realtors is to protect our clients on all sides of the transaction,” Tami Lyyn of Sotheby’s International Realty said. “California Association of Realtors got on the bandwagon very fast in designing forms that would protect everyone—that they agree to view a property under certain conditions.”

In order to eliminate so-called lookie-loos, only prequalified buyers are allowed in home showings. Once there is proof of funds visitors must sign a disclosure stating they have had no coronavirus symptoms and have not been exposed. 

“Now it’s getting more scrutinized, so we don’t get a lot of people going through the property that are really not qualified anyway,” Torrence described, adding, “That might change the way we operate in real estate. Agents are screening clients more carefully. We don’t know how qualified they are unless we ask the right questions. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from investors [and] buyers and we’re requesting proof of funds. If they don’t have it then they don’t get an appointment.” Even a letter of preapproval from the lender may not be good enough in some cases, according to Torrence, who has nearly two decades’ experience in the business.

Although sales have slowed, Malibu leases have been brisk, Torrence speculated, “because, I think, with the coronavirus, people want to have access to the beach in a safe area.”

For those looking to buy, Torrence pointed out “interest rates are really great for entry-level homes. Any house under a million dollars in Los Angeles, they’re getting a lot of ... offers. There’s not enough inventory, especially for homes under a million dollars. Interest rates are good though—below three percent. People are refinancing.”

With many people out of work, Torrence claimed it may still be possible to get financing because “they qualify you based on your last year’s income tax returns.” 

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