Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 5% for the week and were a remarkable 33% higher than a year ago.
Home prices gains continue to accelerate, so low mortgage rates are giving buyers much-needed help.
Homebuyers rush back into the market as mortgage rates hit new low
After a brief pullback at the end of June, homebuyers rushed back into the mortgage market last week, taking advantage of record-low mortgage rates.
Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 5% for the week and were a remarkable 33% higher than a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s index, which was seasonally adjusted, including for the Fourth of July holiday.
Buyer demand has been incredibly strong since mid-May, after the coronavirus shut down most housing activity in April. The only thing standing in the way of more sales is the record low supply of homes for sale.
Home prices gains continue to accelerate, so low mortgage rates are giving buyers much-needed help. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of up to $510,400 dropped to 3.26% from 3.29%. Points, including the origination fee, for loans with a 20% down payment decreased to 0.35 from 0.36.
“Mortgage rates declined to another record low as renewed fears of a coronavirus resurgence offset the impacts from a week of mostly positive economic data, such as June factory orders and payroll employment,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. “The average purchase loan size increased to $365,700 — also another high — as borrowers contend with limited supply and higher home prices.”
Applications to refinance a home loan, which are generally more sensitive to weekly interest rate moves, rose just 0.4% from the previous week but were 111% higher than one year ago. Because interest rates have been low and refinance demand has been strong for so long, only a limited number of borrowers can still benefit significantly from even the new record low rate.
The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 60.1% of total applications from 61.2% the previous week.
Mortgage rates continued to drop at the start of this week, especially after the stock market sell-off Tuesday. Mortgage rates loosely follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury.
“Prediction is tough, but what I can say is that a lot of us who watch the market very closely are on high alert for signs that the low rate environment is under imminent threat,” said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer at Mortgage News Daily. “While that could change with even one major coronavirus headline, we’re not seeing that threat as of today.”
After plunging to nearly the lowest level in its history in April, an index measuring consumer sentiment in the housing market bounced back significantly in June. Renters were especially optimistic about homebuying.
The share of consumers who think it’s a good time to buy a home increased from 52% to 61% month to month, according to the Fannie Mae survey, while fewer Americans said it was a bad time to buy. Renters drove much of that improvement.
“The share of renters who say it’s a good time to buy a home is now at its highest level in five years, suggesting favorable conditions for first-time homebuying, consistent with the recent rebound in home purchase activity,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief economist.
Current homeowners are also getting slightly more optimistic about the sales market, especially given the lack of housing supply. The percentage of respondents saying now is a good time to sell a home increased from 32% to 41%, although nearly half still think it’s a bad time to sell.
Home sales jumped dramatically in May, after grinding to a halt in March and April. While new listings are coming on the market, the total inventory of homes for sale at the end of May was 19% lower than May 2019, according to the National Association of Realtors. Pending sales in May, which represent signed contracts on existing homes, jumped a record 44% compared with April.
“However, this activity may cool again in the coming months, depending on the extent to which it can be attributed to consumers having chosen to delay or to accelerate homebuying plans due to the pandemic,” said Duncan. “We believe the continuing uncertainty regarding the coronavirus’ containment suggests an uneven and potentially volatile course toward economic recovery.”
Consumers are still very concerned about their job security, even as the employment picture improves slightly. Renters and homeowners with a mortgage are particularly worried, according to the survey, given the sudden record-high unemployment brought on by the pandemic.
More Americans now think home prices will strengthen, which is a double-edged sword in the market. Home prices were already elevated going into the pandemic, and affordability was weakening despite record-low mortgage rates.
On that front, more respondents said they expect mortgage rates to rise over the next year.
What does this mean to us? First, it may a good time to re-finance. Second, Real Estate will continue to be one of the best investments available for years to come.
What is striking is lack of inventory in Nevada County
607 houses for sale June 2019 vs 343 houses for sale June 2020, a significant 43.5% decline. That’s a reduction from 4.3 months of inventory to 2.1 months of inventory and presages a SELLER’S MARKET.
The average SOLD price per square foot is stable year to year ($251 vs $248). Units sold were 140 in June 2019 and 160 in June 2020, an increase of 14.3%.
Units PENDING are up 100.8%. While Nevada County has long been a magnet for buyers from the SF Bay Area, and to a lesser extent, the Los Angeles region, we believe the relative safety of our area is significantly driving interest and sales. The pending numbers belie that.
If you are contemplating selling a property, we have rarely seen a better time!
Don’t hesitate to call us for evaluations of your home’s value or to tour homes on the market you have interest in. We are here for you, and Alisa always answers her cell phone, 530-559-4871.
A MARKET MINUTE perspective from CA Association of Realtors
July 9, 2020
The California and national economies and housing markets continue to show improvement across a broad spectrum of indicators
However, we continue to face both ongoing and new challenges that we, as real estate professionals, need to be aware of to best serve our clients. Business has been improving, consumers are feeling better, and we are still enjoying all-time low interest rates. However, uncertainty has also increased in recent weeks, so we need to continue to hustle and avoid the temptation to celebrate the recent improvements because we still have a long row to hoe in California.
California home sales exceed pre-COVID levels:
Despite the short holiday week, home sales in California home sales ticked up last week. On average, 801 homes closed on the MLS each day last week—up from 795 the previous week. In addition, closed sales have now been above the pre-COVID levels of early march for the past 4 weeks consecutively. This largely owes to the rebound in pending sales that began in mid-April.
Labor market recovery continued in June:
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a larger than expected drop in unemployment. Although there remain some issues with the classification of temporarily unemployed workers, the decline to 11.1% in June from 13.3% in May represents the second consecutive monthly decline. The payroll survey of employers also showed a second monthly gain with the U.S. economy adding back another 4.8 million of the 20.8 million jobs lost in April.
Buyer demand remains strong:
New purchase mortgage applications actually declined last week by 5.3% from the previous week. However, that was solely due to the short holiday week. In fact, last year the 4th of July decline in mortgage applications was much larger such that the year to year increase in new purchase applications surged by 33%—the largest increase since before shelter in place orders were issued. In addition, the growth in buyers requesting showings through ShowingTime.com remains ahead of last years pace by more than 11% as rates remain at all-time low levels.
California REALTORS® saw business improve during short holiday week:
33% of California REALTORS® surveyed over the weekend reported holding a listing appointment last week despite the short holiday week. That was steady from the week before and continues the consistent improvement from 27% in late May. 26% of members listed a property last week—up from 23% the previous week and at its second highest level since May. 32% entered escrow on a transaction last week—a 4th consecutive weekly increase. Finally, 26% of respondents closed a transaction last week—the highest percentage since we began asking this question in mid-May.
Discounted home sales decline for second consecutive week:
Last week, 54.2% of closed sales were below their original listing price on the MLS. That is down from 55.1% the previous week and marks the second consecutive decline showing that low rates, strong buyer demand, and a lack of available inventory has prevented significant discounting or price impacts to California’s housing market in the wake of the pandemic.
Many remain on unemployment despite recent improvement:
Although labor markets continue to make progress nationwide and in California, many workers continue to face difficulties. Between May and June, the economy added back 7.5 million of the 20.8 million jobs lost in April, but that still leaves U.S. payrolls roughly 13 million jobs shy of the pre-recession peak. Thus, even as things continue to improve, there is still a lot of healing left to be done.
Lack of supply limits momentum of recovery:
In addition to ongoing economic fallout associated with job loss, California’s housing market also has to contend with tighter inventory—particularly as demand and sales have grown in recent weeks. The number of new listings being added to the MLS each week has been declining for the past month, which will limit the momentum of the current rebound. Buyers who are still employed are attracted to the market by historically low rates, but a lack of available supply will mean fewer get into homes than would like to.
Buying season appears to be winding down “on time”:
One question about the effects of COVID-19 was whether it would extend the buying season due to pent-up demand accumulating as families and individuals sat home under shelter-in-place orders. However, data on both mortgage applications and requests for home showings, while remaining elevated compared with last year, does appear to be showing the typical slowing that is observed in July. Many of the homes that will close between now and the theoretical beginning of the school year are the result of transactions that have gone pending already or will go pending very shortly, and that seems to be consistent in 202 as well.
Recent rise in COVID cases threatens recent progress:
The big wild card for the economy and the housing market is the recent surge in new COVID cases. Like many other states, the number of new infections has increased as the economy has reopened gradually over the past month. This increases the uncertainty about how much momentum the nascent recovery will be able to maintain and whether businesses will be able to remain open and the recovery will be able to continue, or whether we see economic activity drop off under another round of more stringent restrictions.
There continues to be many positive signs in the economic data, whether it pertains to the labor markets, consumer confidence and spending, REALTOR® sentiments in California, signs of buyer demand, of the housing market data itself. However, the economy still had a lot of healing left to do even before this recent rise in new infections. For the past few months, we have said that a second wave of the virus would likely result in a slower recovery period and greater impacts to the economy and housing market so we will be monitoring this closely and making any necessary adjustments to our forecast so that we can share them with you. We’ve made tremendous progress so far, but we’ve still got a long road ahead.
From our friends at KING ARTHUR FLOUR: Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza
Out of all the styles of pizza, we’ve chosen Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza as our 2020 Recipe of the Year.
With its crispy golden edges, gooey layer of cheese (right to the edge!), and thick yet delicate crust, it has a texture and taste that make you want more. Plus, the crust has just five simple ingredients: it’s easy to pull off in a home kitchen.
Our recipe incorporates four baking “tricks.”
An untraditional, nearly no-knead method of folding the dough creates airy pockets in the crust. An overnight refrigerated rest allows the dough time to develop maximum flavor. Baking in a cast iron pan makes an audibly crispy crust for your flavorful assortment of toppings. And finally, the unique layering of cheese beneath the sauce acts as a barrier to minimize sogginess.
1/3 to 1/2 cup (74g to 113g) tomato sauce or pizza sauce, homemade or store-bought
freshly grated hard cheese and fresh herbs for sprinkling on top after baking, optional*
Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
Place the flour, salt, yeast, water, and 1 tablespoon (13g) of the olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer or other medium-large mixing bowl.
Stir everything together to make a shaggy, sticky mass of dough with no dry patches of flour. This should take 30 to 45 seconds in a mixer using the beater paddle; or about 1 minute by hand, using a spoon or spatula. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to gather the dough into a rough ball; cover the bowl.
After 5 minutes, uncover the bowl and reach a bowl scraper or your wet hand down between the side of the bowl and the dough, as though you were going to lift the dough out. Instead of lifting, stretch the bottom of the dough up and over its top. Repeat three more times, turning the bowl 90° each time. This process of four stretches, which takes the place of kneading, is called a fold.
Re-cover the bowl, and after 5 minutes do another fold. Wait 5 minutes and repeat; then another 5 minutes, and do a fourth and final fold. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest, undisturbed, for 40 minutes. Then refrigerate it for a minimum of 12 hours, or up to 72 hours. It’ll rise slowly as it chills, developing flavor; this long rise will also add flexibility to your schedule.
About 3 hours before you want to serve your pizza, prepare your pan. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons (18g) olive oil into a well-seasoned cast iron skillet that’s 10” to 11” diameter across the top, and about 9” across the bottom. Heavy, dark cast iron will give you a superb crust; but if you don’t have it, use another oven-safe heavy-bottomed skillet of similar size, or a 10” round cake pan or 9” square pan. Tilt the pan to spread the oil across the bottom, and use your fingers or a paper towel to spread some oil up the edges, as well.
Transfer the dough to the pan and turn it once to coat both sides with the oil. After coating the dough in oil, press the dough to the edges of the pan, dimpling it using the tips of your fingers in the process. The dough may start to resist and shrink back; that’s OK, just cover it and let it rest for about 15 minutes, then repeat the dimpling/pressing. At this point the dough should reach the edges of the pan; if it doesn’t, give it one more 15-minute rest before dimpling/pressing a third and final time.
Cover the crust and let it rise for 2 hours at room temperature. The fully risen dough will look soft and pillowy and will jiggle when you gently shake the pan.
About 30 minutes before baking, place one rack at the bottom of the oven and one toward the top (about 4″ to 5″ from the top heating element). Preheat the oven to 450°F.
When you’re ready to bake the pizza, sprinkle about three-quarters of the mozzarella (a scant 1 cup) evenly over the crust. Cover the entire crust, no bare dough showing; this will yield caramelized edges. Dollop small spoonfuls of the sauce over the cheese; laying the cheese down first like this will prevent the sauce from seeping into the crust and making it soggy. Sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella.
Bake the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom and edges of the crust are a rich golden brown (use a spatula to check the bottom). If the bottom is brown but the top still seems pale, transfer the pizza to the top rack and bake for 2 to 4 minutes longer. On the other hand, if the top seems fine but the bottom’s not browned to your liking, leave the pizza on the bottom rack for another 2 to 4 minutes. Home ovens can vary a lot, so use the visual cues and your own preferences to gauge when you’ve achieved the perfect bake.
Remove the pizza from the oven and place the pan on a heatproof surface. Carefully run a table knife or spatula between the edge of the pizza and side of the pan to prevent the cheese from sticking as it cools. Let the pizza cool very briefly; as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, carefully transfer it from the pan to a cooling rack or cutting surface. This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.
Serve the pizza anywhere from medium-hot to warm. Kitchen shears or a large pair of household scissors are both good tools for cutting this thick pizza into wedges.
Tips from our Bakers
Our base cheese of choice is a block of low-moisture mozzarella, coarsely grated. Want to experiment with different cheeses? Choose those that melt well: Fontina, cheddar, Jack, provolone, Gouda, and Muenster are all good candidates.
Want to add your own favorite toppings beyond red sauce and cheese? Vegetables or meats should be cooked before arranging them in a single layer atop cheese and sauce. Feel free to experiment with other sauces, too; pesto or white sauce are great alternatives to tomato. One hint: To avoid potential sogginess, stick to the same quantities and layering process for sauce and cheese listed above.
For an extra hit of flavor, sprinkle freshly grated hard cheese (e.g., Parmesan, Asiago, Romano) and/or fresh herbs (oregano, basil, thyme) over the hot pizza just before serving.
If you’re serving the entire pizza (no leftovers) right away, you can serve it right from the pan if desired. We don’t recommend using a knife to cut the pizza in the pan; it might mar your cast iron’s surface. Instead, after loosening the edges, use a spatula to partially lift the pizza out of the pan, then cut a wedge using a pair of standard household scissors or kitchen shears. Remove the wedge and repeat until you’ve cut and served all of the pizza.
Feeding a larger group? Double all the ingredients in the recipe and follow the recipe instructions as written, dividing the dough into two pans (mix and match from the choices listed in step #6 above).
The U.S. Federal Reserve’s June summary of economic projections released Wednesday shows interest rates near level zero lasting the rest of this year and the next couple of years to support economic recovery.
“What the June [summary of economic projections] shows is a general expectation of an economic recovery beginning in the second half of this year and lasting over the next couple of years, supported by interest rates that remain at their current level near zero,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday during a press conference.
“Of course, my colleagues and I will continue to base our policy decisions on the full range of plausible outcomes, and not on a particular forecast,” Powell added. “This risk management approach is the best way we can promote our maximum employment and price stability goals in these unusually uncertain circumstances.”
No rate hikes — along with the continued purchase of mortgage-backed securities — could mean interest rates for a 30-year-fixed-rate mortgage stays near 3 percent, or record lows, according to National Association of Realtors Chief EconomistLawrence Yun.
“The Federal Reserve’s view that a rate hike will not occur for three years is a signal to the market to expect an all-in accommodative monetary policy,” Yun said. “It is also very likely that the Fed will be aggressively purchasing mortgage-backed securities behind the scenes.”
“That means mortgage rates will be at or near 3 percent and near record lows for an extended time.”
Yun doesn’t believe consumer price inflation will be an issue with the amount of money printing, adding that it’s the right policy for the current economic climate.
Credit: Inman News
What does this mean to us?
First, it may a good time to re-finance. Second, Real Estate will continue to be one of the best investments available for years to come.
Don’t hesitate to call us for evaluations of your home’s value or to tour homes on the market you have interest in.
We are here for you, and Alisa always answers her cell phone, 530-559-4871.
It’s getting a little warm! This is June after all, and who wants to slave over a not stove? Cucumbers are in full glory…so how ‘bout a yummy, super simple Cucumber Salad. From our friends at Kitchn.
The Ridiculously Good Cucumber Salad I Keep Coming Back To
Every year as the weather warms and summer inches closer, I make a mental list of the seasonal favorites I absolutely have to make. My list always includes classics like burgers, lemonade, and buttery corn on the cob, and fresh fruit desserts like strawberry shortcake and blueberry crisp. But at the very top of the list is always my mom’s creamy cucumber and tomato salad. It was a staple of my childhood, and so to me it’s what summer tastes like.
Mom’s Cucumber & Tomato Salad
My mom has been making this salad for as long as I can remember. It was a summer tradition in our house — not a special-occasion tradition, but a weekly (and sometimes nightly) one. No matter what she served as the main course, this salad was always eaten up first. We devoured every fresh and creamy bite, going back for seconds, then thirds, vying for the very last slices of cucumber and chunks of tomato in the bottom of the bowl and spooning them onto our plates along with every last drop of the creamy, tangy dressing. In fact, it’s the punchy tang of that light and creamy dressing that’s kept me coming back all these years.
Yes, Mayo Really Does Make the Best Dressing for Cucumber Salad
This salad is somewhere in between a tangy, vinegar-based cucumber salad and a rich and creamy one made with sour cream dressing. And that’s all thanks to the mayonnaise-based dressing. Mayo has a delightfully sweet tang that’s different from the tang of sour cream or Greek yogurt — and a little goes a long way. This salad needs just a little bit of dressing to coat the vegetables. When left to sit before serving, the liquid from the cucumbers and tomatoes thins the dressing and mellows it slightly.
How to Make My Mom’s Cucumber and Tomato Salad
My mom isn’t really one for following recipes, a quality I was reminded of when I asked her about the specifics of this dressing. “It depends on the amount of cucumber and tomato,” she told me. “Just a big spoonful of mayo, a pour of red wine vinegar, and a small splash of milk to taste. I’ve never measured it.” If you’re skeptical about the milk, I was, too — until I learned that it boosts the creaminess factor and works to thin the dressing without adding any extra acidity.
To create this salad at home, whisk together 1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, (an optional) 1/2 teaspoon milk (preferably whole or 2%), and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add 1 large peeled and thinly sliced cucumber and 1 large (or 2 small) ripe, chopped tomato and toss to coat. Let the salad sit at least 30 minutes (although the longer the better) before serving
The last 2 months have been challenging in different ways for most people.
As an appraiser, I’ve had to navigate through the real estate market, analyzing the data in both a pre and post COVID market. In the beginning, it was too difficult to say what, if any, impact the virus would have. After 2 months of data, here are some of my observations.
Watch active listings and pending sales.
This tells us what the market is “currently” doing, while a sale is a historic event. A percentage of closed sales went into contract before the COVID crisis and may not have be an indicator of the future. Most data I ran for my assignments did not show any significant changes in prices overall when comparing pending sales/active listings vs. closed sales. Volume, days on market, etc. categories may have shown some changes.
Confirm if a low sales price is indeed the market or an anomaly.
I did observe a couple anomalies on purchases early on with some contract prices far below market trends.I spoke to the agents to determine why. One was due to seller who was honestly uncertain of the COVID impact on the market and wanted to sell asap to move on. Now if this became the norm and a majority of the comps were selling at this lower price range, that would suggest that the market adjusted and the new market range. But I didn’t observe that.
When looking at data from March until May 2020, don’t compare the data in this period to the data from the few months before (ex. Jan-Feb 2020). Go back and compare to the same period in 2019. Real Estate can be seasonal and seeing what impact COVID may have is best to look at the same period the year before especially during this spring period. Overall, many areas showed total volume down due to listings being placed on hold and/or withdrawn/cancelled, but was seemingly offset by a percentage of buyers seemingly sidelined due to shelter in place guidelines. If we have a shift with more listings and buyers remaining sidelined, then a shift in prices may be more likely.
Recently, pending sales are picking up.
Over the past month, I’ve seen many markets increase in pending sales. Some buyers may be bargain hunting and looking for a good deal. Other buyers or sellers have just been on the sidelines waiting and comfortable moving forward now. It will be interesting to see if the summer becomes a delayed spring market. This will be something to watch.
As we progress back to normalcy, we must remember that data can shift at any given time with a setback in the economy, COVID, and other external factors not yet known. There is a psychology factor as well. We are in new unprecedented times currently and going forward, some of our prior normal will be shifted. As real estate professionals, we have to be willing to adapt in this market.
Bryan Lynch Certified Real Estate Appraiser
What are we seeing?
The team is busy helping clients list and purchase homes. While we had a brief lull at the beginning of the Covid-19 shutdown, real estate activity has been robust for us, with new listings coming on market and buyers interested in finding homes in Western Nevada County.
Don’t hesitate to call us for evaluations of your home’s value or to tour homes on the market you have interest in.
We are here for you, and Alisa always answers her cell phone, 530-559-4871.
The Chart below shows Active and Pending listing in an upward trend. This is the MetroList MLS data that covers several counties contiguous to, and including Nevada County.
Prospector MLS Residential Statistics From March 18th to May 20th.
The MetroList team continues to monitor its systems and real estate data as our region, state and country begin to reopen. The latest Prospector MLS statistics are telling us the real estate market has started to rebound in the areas served by MetroList. As illustrated in the chart below, Active and Pending Residential Listings have begun to climb upward. These two indicators (Active and Pending) tends to bode well as showing guidelines have been developed to allow real estate brokers and agents to show properties. Click here to download the chart in PDF format.
Planting Seeds! Spring Is Sprung – Time to Get Busy Outside…
From Our Friends At The Sierra Club Magazine-
As an urban farmer for the past 20 years, I have seen interest in urban farming wax and wane. During economic good times, it’s often treated as a novelty—“Oh look, this lady has goats in her backyard. How cute!” During, say, a recession or a pandemic, though, the thought process shifts: “Look, this lady has goats in her backyard. Let’s get some too!”
Going to the grocery store in the time of COVID-19 feels like an act of desperation. What if you could cut down on hours spent braving masked lines and spend more time traipsing through your own safe backyard to pick some kale for dinner? I’ve always found that growing my own food feels liberating, but these days, it feels urgent.
Much to my chagrin, over the course of good economic years, I got rid of my rabbits, then my goats, then my chickens, and finally, two years ago, my garden. When I moved into a North Oakland duplex with a concrete driveway and wild backyard, I didn’t even try to grow stuff at my new house. I figured I could just buy eggs and vegetables.
Then the coronavirus hit
Sheltering in place, I could suddenly see all the possibilities around me for gardening; it rekindled that spark to grow my own food again. Following are nine ways to get your COVID-19 victory garden off the ground.
Watch the sunlight
Your most important consideration? How many hours of direct sunlight your garden will get. To get a good yield from tomatoes, kale, zucchini, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, you will need at least six hours of direct sun on your plants. Firing up my new COVID garden, I spent a few days taking note of where the longest stretches of sunlight hit the driveway. Then I placed raised beds—horse stock tanks, drilled with holes on the bottom and filled with potting soil—in those areas.
Some crops don’t mind fewer hours of sunlight: lettuce, herbs like parsley and mint, spinach, and beets greens. But these plants still require at least four hours of sunlight. So I planted a few stock tanks with lettuce and herbs in a shadier corner of my yard.
My point is, before you dig or place raised beds, watch the sun move across your property—and this includes porches, balconies, and windowsills—for a few days. If there’s a sunny spot, think about how you can plant something there.
Expand your vegetable bed options
If you have a backyard with plentiful sun, and you know the soil is free of lead, I recommend you start in-ground beds—it’s how we tamed our wild backyard. I took pieces of wood and staked each corner to make three three-foot-wide, 10-foot-long beds. Then I dug into the bed-to-be, turning over soil and pulling out weeds and other debris so that the bed was simply fluffy-looking soil. Then I added three to four inches of finished compost to each bed and worked it into the bed with a broadfork. My soil looked pretty dark and rich, with plenty of earthworms—a good sign. But if your soil is sandy or pale, you will need to add more compost.
Lead in soil is one of the biggest problems facing urban agriculture—leafy greens and root crops uptake heavy metals in the soil into their tissues, so if you grow these vegetables in heavily leaded soil, you may be eating lead in your salad. Currently, the soil labs that test for heavy metals are closed, so if you haven’t tested your soil and want to grow leafy greens and roof crops, you are better off building raised container beds.
Growing in large containers:
If tilling up a backyard isn’t possible, there are other options for making beds. Be sure they’re at least 18 inches tall (deep-rooted crops like tomatoes need that much space) and use a mix of compost and potting soil that has good drainage. If you build beds out of lumber, use two-inch-wide solid wood, redwood if you want them to last. Another quicker option is to use stock tanks. The best ones for planting are made of galvanized metal, four to six feet long and three feet deep. Be sure to drill drainage holes at the bottom of these with a 3/8 drill bit. Add sand, rocks, or busted up pottery to the bottom to aid drainage. If stock tanks are sold out in your region, get a few galvanized metal trash cans. One trash can is great for growing one full-size tomato plant, four kale plants, or a medley of herbs. When gathered together, the trash cans can even look beautiful. Oscar-the-Grouch chic!
On windowsills, you can grow herbs like cilantro, mint, bunching onions, and basil in pots. Your pot size will be dictated by your windowsill size; most sills can hold a four-inch pot. Choose pots with drainage holes, and fill with potting soil. (I’ve also seen people use those red plastic beer cups to great effect, with a hole stabbed in the bottom.) Be sure to put a drip catcher under your pot. If your windowsill is especially hot, you might need to water daily. Snip the herbs as they grow. Another option is to set up a table at a south-facing window and arrange plants to grow there.
On balconies, you can use larger-sized containers. You can usually find free five- or 15-gallon black plastic nursery containers. If beauty is important to you, used glazed pots. Half wine barrels are also rustic and cute. People tend to want to crowd lots of plants into one container, but for a five-gallon pot, plant only one cherry tomato, or three herb plants, or one zucchini. These will need to be watered regularly—during a hot summer, that means at least every other day.
Grow what gives a good yield
To get the most nutrition out of your garden beds, I recommend growing greens, lettuces, herbs, and bunching onions all year round. These crops allow for multiple harvests over time and can be planted from seed. If you have extra room and loose soil, plant carrot and beet seeds. In the summer, the most productive vegetables are tomatoes, zucchini, and pole beans. For a family of four, I would suggest planting at least three tomato plants—one cherry, one a “canner” like Roma or early girls, one beefsteak or another slicer for eating fresh on salads. That same family would do well to have two zucchini plants and two cucumber plants. With beans you’ll want to “succession plant”—plant first seeds April 30, another patch May 15, another row May 30, and so on, so you’ll have beans to harvest all summer long. Don’t bother with garlic, corn (unless culturally significant), onions, leeks, or cabbages. These tend to take a long time to grow and are readily available at the store. If you have extra space, try growing pumpkins and winter squash.
To reap calories and a sense of fullness during these challenging times, go for potatoes. You can just use store-bought ones: cut into halves or quarters and wait for five days until the wetness calluses over. Then plant into trenches and cover shallowly. Continue to mound soil around the plant as it sprouts up. I’ve even planted potatoes in stacks of milk crates lined with newspaper and covered with potting soil. The potato plant grows out of the holes in the milk crate and makes a nest of potatoes in the milk crate. Not huge yields, but something.
If your goal is to eat more fruit this pandemic, you’re better off planting berry bushes, not fruit trees. Raspberries and strawberries planted right now will give you quite a few berries by the fall. But choose wisely—blueberries are usually a disappointment in terms of yield and require tons of water. Fruit trees won’t provide fruit for the first three years, but in the event that pandemics become a regular thing, and/or food scarcity increases over the next few years, it might be a smart idea to plant a few fruiting trees.
Get adventurous with seed variety
Thanks to a sudden surge in veggie gardening, seeds are already getting difficult to secure—a number of seed companies are scrambling to meet demand. Be patient; they will get you your seeds eventually. And pro tip: Don’t be picky when you order. Try purple pole beans if they don’t have Kentucky wonders. If they’re out of standard-shape zucchini seeds, go for the pattypan zucchini. Also, I have noticed that Asian vegetables tend to have better germination; plus they simply grow faster. Try Chinese cabbage, bok choy, or gunsho choi sum, an amazing-tasting Asian broccoli.
Also, many regional seed banks are stepping up and getting seeds into the communities they serve. Look into your local seed bank for a possible seed hook up.
Buy starts for warm-season crops
I like to buy starts for things like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. These are hot-weather crops that need to be started in a greenhouse to really thrive. Luckily, most areas have local plant propagators who sell to hardware stores, farmers’ markets, and nurseries. You are better off planting seeds for crops like beans, peas, squash, and cucumbers directly into the ground.
Know that seed-saving is advanced
Seed-saving, while amazing, takes a lot of time, and takes up garden space too. The original plant must be an open-pollinated variety—you won’t have success growing crops from seed from hybrid plants. But there are some easy crops to save seed from: cilantro, parsley, peas, and beans. If you’ve got an open-pollinated variety of tomatoes (most heirlooms are), you can save seed from them in the fall.
Don’t skip the flowers
Given the times, we might be inclined to skip the flowers and solely grow edibles. But I would argue that flowers are just as important as food crops. First of all, they provide food for our pollinators—and since we need these insects to pollinate our edible crops, why not entice them into your garden? Top pollinator attractors include borage, sunflowers, and lacy phacelia. Second, some flowers act as companion plants—marigolds, for example, ward off nasty nematodes in the roots of tomato plants.
Finally, beauty is important for our mental health
So plant some cosmos or sweet pea seeds, sunflowers, or bachelor buttons this spring. A simple bouquet of home-grown flowers on your kitchen table is a reminder that the earth loves us and that we are of this earth. In these trying times, this might be the most important truth to keep in mind.
As always, Johnson’s Sierra Lifestyle Team is here for you
Our web site is full of information for you whether you are looking to buy real estate, sell real estate or looking for information about the community, https://sierralifestyleteam.com/.
The Nevada County Real Estate Market In the Time Of Covid-19!
What’s up with the Market?
We’ve talked to many folks recently who give thanks that we are fortunate to live in Nevada County for lots of reasons, among them the low number of COVID 19 cases here and our ‘natural’ social distancing since we are already spread apart much more than urban environments. So, we give thanks!
Here is a snapshot of Nevada County RE activity:
What do those Numbers Mean!
Homes for sale are up 7.8% May vs April, but down 25% against a year ago. Homes Sold are flat May vs April, but down 38% vs a year ago and Homes Pending are up 180% May vs April, but down 19% vs a year ago.
We think, given all the challenges of the shutdown, those numbers look pretty good. The reality is that Real Estate in Nevada County is relatively healthy. Full time hardworking agents are busy. We are working with sellers to prepare homes to go on the market now and in the coming months.
And we are showing homes to prospective buyers, who, in this environment are not out there unless they are serious. No looky-loos!
What about prices, you say. Prices are up 10% May vs April, and up 3% this April vs a year ago. Prices are supported somewhat by less inventory, but we think it is the attractiveness of Nevada County especially during the time of pandemic. Our county is simply a safer place than others.
Days on market are a bit better, with houses selling 8% quicker this year vs last year and 19% quicker May vs April. Average of 81 DOM.
What about the future outlook?
It seems a no-brainer that Nevada County is more attractive than ever. We have seen for quite a while lots of Bay Aea folks moving here for the stellar lifestyle Nevada County delivers. Couple that with attractive home prices relative to the Bay Area, and now heightened sensitivity to safety, we are ripe for a significant boom as conditions normalize.
Johnson’s Sierra Lifestyle Team is working, here the assist you, and practicing safe social measures consistent with government, county and National Assn. of Realtors guidelines.
Open House will be virtual until safe conditions pertain. Showings will be conducted two clients at a time in the house, masks/gloves worn and we will utilize sanitizer on surfaces we cannot avoid touching (such as handrails, doorknobs, etc. We will travel in separate cars to maintain social distance. No tha1t does not mean we don’t like you ☺ We look forward to hugging days again!
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE RESIDENTIAL GREEN WASTE DISPOSAL
The 2020 Free Residential Green Waste Event is scheduled for May 17 – June 27, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required stay-at-home orders, but we can still prepare for wildfire. Now is the time for residents to spend time improving defensible space around homes and property lines. The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, and the County of Nevada Office of Emergency Services are committed to the health and safety of the residents of Nevada County. We’ve partnered to dramatically expand the 2020 Free Residential Green Waste Event to not only reduce the risk of wildfire, but also to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19. FREE CHIPS FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS at RISE GOLD & PENN VALLEY RODEO GROUNDS To stretch our funding as far as possible, we’re chipping and grinding collected waste, and offering that material on Fridays and Saturdays to the public from Rise Gold and Penn Valley Rodeo Grounds sites only. While this material cannot be placed within the first 30 ft. of your home, it is still useful in weed suppression, moisture retention, soil enrichment and erosion control. Please note that to reduce the spread of invasive species, we cannot accept any loads with blackberry, Scotch broom, or poison oak. These items may be taken to the Waste Management Transfer Station or to the Tahoe Truckee Sierrra Disposal site. Root balls, large diameter limbs, and trash cannot be accepted, either. CONVENIENT DROP SITES SUNDAY-TUESDAY The Western Nevada County drop sites will be open from 9am – 3pm Sunday – Tuesday from May 17 – June 27 at the following locations: Rise Gold, Grass Valley 12625 Brunswick Road, Grass Valley, CA Penn Valley Rodeo Grounds: 10531 Spenceville Rd, Grass Valley, CA NID Alta Sierrra Reservoir Site12057 Francis Drive, Grass Valley, CA We are grateful to these organizations, and to the Alta Sierra Property Owners Association, for their generosity and commitment to the safety and well-being of the community! VOLUNTEER SAFELY Measures are being taken to ensure the collection of green waste is “no-contact.” We will offer specialized training for staff and volunteers and will prepare collection sites to ensure social distancing for the safety of the residents who participate. Volunteers interested in directing traffic and screening materials can sign up for any of our three sites. In order to reduce the number of people on site, please consider volunteering for multiple days of a weekend. Family groups are also encouraged to volunteer together. Click to volunteer in Alta Sierra Click to volunteer in Penn Valley Click to volunteer in Grass Valley Click to volunteer in Truckee (TBD) For any questions regarding our 2020 Free Residential Green Waste event, please contact the Fire Safe Council’s Programs Manager, Julie Siegenthaler at (530) 272-1122 x 120, or via email email@example.com.
FREE GREEN WASTE DISPOSAL FOR TRUCKEE RESIDENTS
For Town of Truckee residents 6-yards of free green waste disposal is available at Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposalduring the following dates and times: If material is transported in bags, the bags must be emptied on site by the hauler. To facilitate unloading, position a tarp on the bottom of the truck bed or trailer before loading the material. Don’t forget to cover the load for safe hauling.
8 a.m.-4 p.m. May 1– October 31 Monday – Saturday
Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal–Currently closed due to COVID-19 Hwy 89 & Cabin Creek Rd. Truckee, CA 96161 (530) 583-7800
To take advantage of the free drop-off, residents are required to bring proof of residency.
ADDITIONAL FEE SERVICES
Waste Management Drop-Off Take green waste to local disposal vendors year-round. Standard disposal rates apply. McCourtney Road Transfer–Currently, open to the public by appointment only. 14741 Wolf Mountain Rd. Grass Valley, CA (530) 274-0120 Wednesday – Sunday, 8:00am-3:30pm-
We decided to learn how to make bread. First challenge was finding flour, but once we did, we made this simple hearth bread thanks to the King Arthur Flour folks. Really not hard to do and tasty! How to make a simple hearth bread, below.
Hearth bread: the name brings to mind an ancient kitchen fireplace, its blackened stone interior ready to bake one crusty loaf after another, doesn’t it? While very few of us bake bread in a fireplace hearth oven these days (or its modern counterpart, an outdoor stone oven), crusty/chewy “hearth bread” is still very much within our reach.
With very little necessary skill beyond knowing how to knead dough (or using a stand mixer to do it for you), hearth bread is accessible to just about all of you out there.
What is hearth bread, exactly?
It’s a crusty, chewy loaf made from the simplest of ingredients and baked directly on a baking stone or on a baking sheet, rather than in a loaf pan. Since our version of Hearth Bread is a “straight” dough (as opposed to one using some kind of starter, like sourdough), its flavor is mild: a hint of yeast, a touch of wheat, the perfect complement to main dish, soup, or salad.
You can make sandwiches with this bread; its sturdy texture means it’s especially good for panini, French toast, and grilled cheese. Toast it for breakfast; or let it dry out and make it into breadcrumbs, bread pudding, stuffing, or croutons. Looking for an all-purpose loaf? You’ve found it.
If you’re a seasoned bread baker, the following illustrated directions for making this bread will be old hat to you: mix, knead, let rise, shape, let rise, bake, enjoy.
But if baking bread is a new endeavor for you, following the directions carefully is your key to success.
Pulling these loaves out of the oven, you’ll feel the pride of accomplishment that hearth bread bakers have been basking in for over 10,000 years.
How to make hearth bread
This Hearth Bread recipe graced the back of our all-purpose flour bags for years; we daresay it’s given millions of bakers the confidence to tackle yeast bread. Are you ready to give it a go? Here’s what you’ll need:
A brief note on commercial yeast: active dry and instant
You’ll commonly find active dry yeast in three-pack strips on your supermarket shelf. This recipe gives you the option of using active dry yeast but not so-called “rapid” yeast — so pay attention to what you grab.
Instant yeast is more commonly available online than at the grocery store, and usually comes in a 1-pound bag. Considering a pound of instant yeast costs $5.95, and 3/4 of an ounce of active dry in packets runs about $1.99, it’s worth your while to spring for instant; it’ll stay good in your freezer for years.
You may have heard that yeast needs to be “proofed,” which means dissolved in warm water before using. This was a necessary step a few decades ago, but commercial yeast’s manufacturing process has changed: these days, you can simply mix either active dry or instant yeast with the rest of your bread’s ingredients, no proofing necessary.
“What?!” I can feel your angst, all of you who learned to bake bread back in the day. “You HAVE to dissolve yeast before you use it.”
If you choose to proof your yeast, mix it with 1/4 cup (57g) of the lukewarm water from your recipe plus a pinch of sugar, and wait 10 to 15 minutes; it should expand as shown above, which means it’s good to go.
Actually, you don’t have to dissolve yeast before using it. In fact, the one and only time I’d suggest doing so is if you question your yeast’s viability: maybe you’re using an expired packet, or the last little bit from a dusty old jar. In that case sure, go ahead and “prove” that it works by dissolving it in water to see if it comes to life. Otherwise, save yourself some time and skip this step.
OK, back to the recipe. Hearth bread dough is easily prepared by hand. Or if you have a stand mixer, go ahead and use it. A bread machine set on the dough cycle is also a good choice; simply let the dough go through the complete cycle, then shape and bake as directed below.
To make the dough by hand
If you decide to make the dough by hand, mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, starting with the smaller amount of flour (5 1/2 cups, 663g). Mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, adding more of the flour if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to knead.
Fold the far edge of the dough back over on itself towards you. Press into the dough with the heels of your hands and push away. After each push, rotate the dough 90°. Be firm with your motions — but not so “firm” that you mash the dough onto your work surface and it sticks. This whole process may be a little messy, but don’t give up — practice makes perfect!
Fully kneaded dough is soft, smooth, and a bit bouncy.
Repeat this process in a rhythmic, rocking motion for 5 minutes, sprinkling only enough flour on your kneading surface to prevent sticking. Let the dough rest while you scrape out and grease the mixing bowl.
Baker’s tip: If your hands become unbearably sticky while kneading, “wash” them with flour instead of water. Water will just make your hands stickier; instead, grab a couple of tablespoons of flour and rub your hands vigorously. The sticky dough will turn into dry bits and fall off, so do this over your compost bin or a wastepaper basket.
To make the dough using a stand mixer
Place all of the ingredients in your stand mixer’s bowl, using the smaller amount of flour. You’ll want to reduce the amount of water to 1 3/4 cups (396g), since you won’t be using any extra flour on a kneading surface as you do when kneading by hand.
Mix all of the ingredients using your mixer’s dough hook until everything comes together, with no patches of dry flour remaining in the bowl.
Sticking with the hook, knead the dough at medium-low speed for about 7 minutes, until it’s smooth and just barely sticking to the bottom and perhaps the sides of the bowl.
Baker’s tip: When washing a bowl in which you’ve made sticky yeast dough, use cold water. Hot water will “bake” yeast dough right onto the bowl, rather than floating it off. Once the bowl is clean of dough, rinse it in hot water to finish.
Two batches of dough, one made with proofed yeast (left) and the other with yeast mixed directly into the dough without being dissolved in water first. After 90 minutes, the direct-mix dough (no yeast-proofing) has clearly risen higher than the proofed-yeast dough.
Let the dough rise
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container large enough for it to at least double in size. Cover with plastic wrap or your favorite reusable cover and place in a warm, draft-free place (your turned-off oven works well) until the dough doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours.
Shape the dough
Gently deflate the dough, and move it to a lightly greased work surface.
Baker’s tip: Why a greased work surface, rather than floured? The more flour you add to the dough at this point, the drier your bread will be. A quick spritz of cooking spray onto the table is all it takes to keep dough from sticking as you shape it.
A bench knife and scale are two of the bread baker’s best friends.
Cut the dough in half; a digital scale is helpful if you want two equal-sized loaves.
Shape each half into an oval Italian-type loaf, or a longer, thinner French-style loaf. Here’s the best way to shape your dough: Working with one piece of dough at a time, gently pat it into a rough rectangle. Grab a short side and fold the dough like a business letter (one short side into the center, the other short side over it). Use the heel of your hand to press the open edge of the “letter” closed, then gently pat and roll the dough into the shape of your choice. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
Place the loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment (if you have it) and generously sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina. The cornmeal or semolina are optional, but give the bottom crust lovely crunch.
Baker’s tip: Why choose semolina over cornmeal? It’s true cornmeal is more readily available, but semolina doesn’t burn and potentially become bitter like cornmeal might.
Drape the loaves with greased plastic wrap or a reusable cover. I use wide, heavy freezer wrap, since it covers the entire baking sheet and isn’t as liable to stick to the rising dough as thinner wrap.
Let the loaves rise
Let the loaves rise for about 45 minutes, until they’re noticeably puffy but definitely not doubled in size. They should be larger, but not feel at all fragile or “marshmallow-y.” This dough is a fast riser, so keep your eye on it.
Toward the end of the rising time (which may be as little as half an hour in), start preheating the oven to 425°F.
Ready the bread for the oven
Brush or spray the loaves generously with lukewarm water. This step enhances the bread’s rise; if the crust dries out too quickly in the oven, it sets and prevents the bread from rising fully.
Use a sharp knife to slash the tops of the loaves two or three times diagonally. Use fast, aggressive strokes: SLASH SLASH SLASH, all in under 5 seconds, and you’re done. Slowly and tentatively dragging the knife through the dough won’t work.
Don’t be a scaredy-cat; really slash that dough, going a good half-inch in. The dough may appear to deflate a bit, but so long as you get it into the oven immediately it’ll pick right back up.
Bake the bread
Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake the bread for about 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and a loaf, when rapped on the bottom, sounds hollow. The interior temperature of the bread should register at least 200°F on a digital thermometer.
Three batches of Hearth Bread cooling in the turned-off oven.
Take the loaves off the pan and return them to the oven, placing them right on the rack. Turn the oven off and crack the door open several inches. Let the loaves cool in the cooling oven; this will make their crust extra-crispy.
Since this bread doesn’t include any added fat (the lack of fat helps account for its nicely chewy texture), it’s best enjoyed within a day or two of baking. I usually slice off what I’ll use quickly, then slice and freeze the rest.
For easiest access I package four or five slices at a time in plastic wrap, then place all the packets into a larger plastic bag and freeze. When I want bread I simply pull out and thaw one of the packets. Toasted or griddled, the bread will taste fresh as ever.
Baker’s tip: When making grilled cheese, if your bread always seems to brown well before the cheese melts, try this: Layer cheese onto your bottom slice of bread, then microwave briefly, just to soften the cheese. Add the top slice and fry. Oh, and try this: spread bread with mayo, not butter. Mayo spreads easily, browns evenly, and tastes great.
And there you have it: Hearth Bread, a loaf whose very simplicity — both in ingredients and technique — makes it one of the foundation recipes of yeast bread baking.
Here’s to bread…and life. Here’s to good health of all. We love you!
Alisa Johnson writes about coping positively with significant change afoot:
Oh, how you have shifted our way of life. Although we had heard Covid-19 was coming, I am not sure any of us understood exactly how this would play out. I am a mother of two. One of which has an autoimmune disease. She receives infusion therapy treatments on a regular schedule and is considered “high risk”, so the news for me started a month or more ago coming up with a plan to keep her as safe as possible. In fact, I was coordinating short term independent studies at home once we heard Covid-19 was headed to the US. But just one day after that the schools started to close and new information was coming at me. It felt like a whirlwind between being prepared and being panicked. So, what I did is what I know how to do best. I started planning. I got some extra supplies for my home. Nothing over the top, just enough for a few weeks. I made a plan for my kids to be home and limited contact with friends and family to safe distance. Then I moved to my business. I started putting things in place to continue business as normal. I had nine homes in escrow at the time, seven active listings and nine new listings prepping to come on market. Although plans were in place and I was taking precautions, I am known as the cautious or protective one, so preparing was not a challenge. Some things we started immediately: Lysol door handles and light switches, carrying gloves and hand sanitizer, keeping safe distances while touring and keeping doors open for fresh air in homes we toured. Then, out of no-where, we got the information handed down, “Stay Home or Shelter in Place” per the State. This was not an issue as I thought Real Estate would be essential. It is currently not. Escrow teams were moving to home offices and mobile signings only, county offices were going to E recording only and so many other little details that would likely bore you.
I had a choice.
Either stay home, watch movies and eat popcorn, or figure how to continue to serve my clients the best way I could while respecting the governor’s orders. So here I am working from home, having now closed four of those escrows successfully during this time and preparing to close the others. All our listings other than vacant land are in escrow and we are carrying on. We have made changes how we do signings for escrows and so far, that has been great. We have changed how we “hand off keys” to new owners and handle property access for inspections. 100% of our work is handled online. I have started working with upcoming listings, providing online consultations, using technology to meet via video calls, or having owners upload me videos or pictures of their home so I can continue to offer market value reports and take listings that will go live later in April/May. Sellers also have extra time to get their home in top shape to be the best -looking property online when we do list!
What do I miss the most?
The interaction! I had to say good-bye to clients moving out of area over the phone, or over six feet apart with no hugs goodbye. I miss my team being in the office chatting almost daily and collaborating. Going forward our service to our clients might be coming across on a different platform but the core of who we are and how we do business is not changing. Technology is our friend and every day I am learning more tools to best serve my clients in the ever- changing world we live in.
HomeSmart & Our Team Institutes Significant Protective Measures!
Real Estate Update –
Real Estate is now listed as an essential business. Some tasks can be accomplished out and about, including showings, while observing the strict guidelines below. We are working primarily from our home offices, working on real-estate listings and buyer activities virtually as much as possible. In instances where it is necessary to show homes in person, we are observing state and local, CDC & HomeSmart guidelines detailed below:
The Big Question: May I Go Back to Work?
The Short Answer in The Counties We Primarily Operate as of 04/03/20:
El Dorado County:NO
***Operating in the unrestricted counties are on a AS-NEEDED, LAST RESORT basis.
See below for more details.
A MAP TO GUIDE YOU:
What are the recommended best practices that must be followed in all circumstances?
Showings should be done virtually, if at all possible.
All activities should be completed electronically, if at all possible.
Only a single agent and no more than two other individuals are to be in a dwelling at the same time during a showing. If other persons are necessary for a showing, they should wait outside or in their vehicles to observe the social distance guidelines.
Sellers are to be advised that they should not be present within a dwelling at the same time as other individuals. Sellers are to be advised that they may remain on the property or in the common area of an HOA but not in the dwelling unit itself while agents, buyers, inspectors or others are viewing it. If a seller insists on remaining on the property, that seller is to agree to the terms and sign the declaration (see below) that is required for persons entering the property.
Agents should read and understand the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to protect yourself. This is critically important!
Any persons on the property must agree to adhere strictly to the social distancing guidelines at all times by remaining at least six feet apart per the recommendations established by the CDC.
Any person entering a property shall provide by declaration that to the best of their knowledge, they are not currently ill with a cold or flu; do not have a fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath, or exhibit other COVID-19 symptoms; have not been in contact with a person with COVID-19; and will adhere to and follow all precautions required for viewing the property at all times. All persons visiting a property will agree to wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer prior to entry, and to wear disposable rubber gloves and a protective face mask, if one is made available. In addition, sellers must disclose to all persons who enter the property if the seller is currently ill with a cold, flu or COVID-19 itself, or has a fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath or other COVID-19 symptoms, or has been in contact with a person with COVID-19. Further, if anyone who enters the property is later diagnosed with COVID-19, the person who is diagnosed must immediately inform the listing agent, who will then make best efforts to inform everyone who entered the property after the person diagnosed, of that fact.
Sellers and buyers must be expressly made aware of the risks of showing and visiting properties: that it may be dangerous or unsafe and could expose them or others to coronavirus (COVID-19). Sellers and buyers must be advised of their responsibilities pertaining to COVID-19 protocols regarding social distancing and other CDC guidelines.
The agreement of the seller allowing any person entering onto the property or into the dwelling must be expressly obtained from the seller. Apart from marketing and pre-marketing activities, a standard purchase agreement grants the buyer broad discretion to conduct various inspections and investigations. The seller should be apprised of their obligations under the purchase agreement so that they enter into such agreements with a clear understanding of the attendant risks.
To the extent possible, the use of various third-party services providers for non-essential services must be avoided and, where unavoidable, the providers must agree to sign an agreement to follow CDC guidelines.
REALTORS® should follow the above protocols when conducting any in-person interactions, but should refrain from any non-electronic unsolicited marketing during the COVID-19-related declaration of emergency.
Brokers should consider extending listings and putting a hold on marketing activities or other accommodations for those who, for health or other reasons connected to the COVID-19 virus, wish to stop actively marketing their property for the duration of the governor’s stay-at-home order.
Unless absolutely necessary, communications with clients should be done via electronic means or by telephone. In person conversations should be minimized unless absolutely necessary.
Best practices related to entering a seller’s property:
Listing agents should not leave brochures and flyers in the property but instead utilize any showcasing or other marketing features available through one’s MLS system to highlight the property.
All showings are to be held by appointment only.
Discourage anyone who does not need to view the property from attending a showing.
Agents conducting the showing should meet clients at the property and not drive the client to the property, so as to minimize risk. Information relevant for the showing should be provided in advance to the clients electronically. Keep in mind that MLS rules generally require agents to have obtained seller’s permission for client to enter without the agent being physically present.
Consider limiting in-person, non-virtual showings to “serious” potential buyers, who are those who have provided verifications of funds and lender prequalification letters to show they are able to purchase the property that is the subject of the showing.
Let the seller know well in advance that there is an appointment for a showing.
If using a lockbox, be sure to disinfect the key, the box, and the doorknob prior to utilizing.
When using disposable gloves, be sure to put them on prior to entry and to dispose of them after leaving each property.
Ask seller to turn the lights on and leave interior doors, drapes and blinds open. If the property is vacant, agent should ensure these tasks are taken care of prior to the showing.
Refrain from touching any surface during a showing.
As indicated above and following the CDC guidelines, maintain a safe distance from anyone in the property by staying a minimum of six feet apart.
If the size of the residential unit makes it difficult to maintain the six-foot distance for all parties attending the showing, individuals may need to wait outside and come in the property one at a time, at all times maintaining proper social distance.
Bring your own sanitizers, and gloves — don’t rely on others to bring them. If hand sanitizers are unavailable, liquid hand soap for hand washing should be made available.
Follow suggestions in the CDC’s Cleaning & Disinfecting Guide and provide this information to your sellers, advising them to disinfect the property according to those guidelines after the showing is complete.
Discussions after the showing with the seller or clients should be conducted through electronic means such as email, telephone, Zoom or FaceTime, rather than in person, as maintaining a conversation while adhering to the social distance guidelines is difficult.
For HOAs, have the seller obtain a copy of any new rules that may govern showings of common areas or entry to the property.
The following activities are permissible within these guidelines if all of the above best practices are followed:
Listing presentations should be done virtually if at all possible.
Planting for sale signs or have a sign company install the sign at the agent’s direction.
Having contractors or workers make improvements to the property.
The written approval of the seller for all pre-marketing activities must be obtained by the listing agent. No third party can enter the property if they have not agreed to follow CDC guidelines. Even for contractors and workers, gloves and other protective gear are mandated, as is the declaration that they are asymptomatic and agree to follow CDC guidelines.
To assist you, C.A.R. has released two new forms: One is a Listing Agreement Coronavirus Addendum or Amendment (RLA-CAA) for sellers and listing agents to sign, and the other is a Property Viewing Advisory and Declaration (PEAD) that is to be given to and signed by the seller, buyer, agents and anyone else who will be entering a property.
Taking photography using a video-based system. Keep in mind that the usual copyright considerations governing photographic images still apply.
Staging and de-staging should be virtual, not physical.
HOA site inspections. The seller should check with the HOA to see what, if any, new rules may have been put in place as a response to COVID-19 and make sure that any inspections conform to those rules, or that consent of the HOA has been obtained for any exemption to those rules.
Showing properties by appointment only (including rentals) to individual parties, one set of clients at a time.
No open houses, broker tours or broker previews. A virtual open house or showing scheduled for a specific time may be permissible with the approval of the seller, however sellers should be advised not to be present during such a virtual open house, or agree to sign the declaration regarding being asymptomatic and to follow CDC guidelines during any such showing.
REALTORS® should NOT BE conducting any face-to-face marketing during the COVID-19-related declaration of emergency.
The written approval of the seller for all marketing activities must be obtained by the listing agent. No third party can remain unattended at the property. For all persons entering the property, gloves and other protective gear are mandated, as is the declaration that they are asymptomatic.
26 Mar Covid-19 and Market Comments
BRYAN LYNCH MARKET OBSERVATIONS – THE VIEW FROM PROPERTY APPRAISING
This past two weeks has been a whirlwind to say the least. Early on, it was simply at times a shock and overwhelming as the corona virus pandemic news became a reality. As we’ve settled into our new environment, I’ve been impressed by the resolve of so many people to adapt and adjust. I hope all are doing the best they can through this. If need anything at all, please reach out. We all need to support and rally around each other.
For those obtaining a loan, this week Fannie Mae provided some temporary alternatives to a traditional full appraisal. These include either a desktop and/or 2055 Exterior Drive By. This new information has many scrambling to determine how this will go in the near term. For the most part, I’ve continued completing interior inspections following the inspection screening guidelines that have circulated among my profession. I’ve been and will continue being proactive with safety precautions at appraisal inspections (keeping social distance 6 ft away from parties (occupant(s) have congregated in one room or waited outside in some cases), gloves/masks/booties, etc. Before any inspection, I’ve discussed the above and screened clients so all parties are comfortable before meeting. If this is not a viable option, an exterior inspection is option as well.
Regarding the markets, it’s far too soon to gauge how the corona virus will impact the real estate market (both short and long term). Some properties have been placed on hold, taken temporarily off the market, showings limited, etc. This is new territory for us all and only time will tell the story of the impact (if any) on prices, marketing time expectations, buyer pool, etc. It will be very important to analyze active listings and pending sales post crisis date to see if that begins to indicate the market direction. Closed sales prior to Covid-19 may not be the best indicator for current trends. Again, the crisis is a fluid situation and very important to monitor the most recent market data as real estate professionals. Time will tell.