You can’t fly there but you may be surprised to find that you can still buy property in Florida right now. See how Covid-19 is affecting prices, how restrictions may be lifted and why you don’t want to be last in the queue when they are.
In the first part of this article we get the news from a property professional in Florida, and then look at the national picture.
America has suffered more than any other country from coronavirus, but the effect is patchy throughout the 50 states. So is the lockdown, which can also vary from county to county, for example in which beaches are open in Florida.
We asked Orlando estate agent Tom Luker of Luker Property Group what the situation is on the ground:
Q: How is Florida coping with Covid? Are you locked down like we are in the UK?
Tom Luker: We are on lockdown for the most part. “Essential businesses” are still open, and that includes real estate offices and property management and DIY shops, unlike in the UK. So are banks, doctors, petrol stations, supermarkets, etc. Restaurants are allowed to offer pick up and delivery services only. In my opinion, too many people are still out on the roads. There isn’t the amount of enforcement over here as there is in the UK.
Q: Are viewings going ahead for people already there?
Tom Luker: Viewings are still allowed and we have had some local buyers, but our international clients are not viewing mainly because of the current travel ban. Open houses are only allowed if you are hosting them virtually.
Q: Are you offering virtual viewings?
Tom Luker: Yes, we are able to facilitate a virtual viewing, using methods such as Skype, Facetime, Zoom or even pre-recorded tours.
Q: In theory, if we liked a house we see online, can we buy it from the UK now?
Tom Luker: Yes you can. If you are comfortable buying without seeing it in person, we can facilitate everything via email and electronic signatures. This is another one of the many advantages to working with a broker that has experience in dealing with foreign or out-of-state clients. It’s not unusual for us to do everything virtually and still be able to deliver a house in a smooth and seamless process.
Q: Any news or even rumours over there about when flights might resume?
Tom Luker: I have been tracking this, but at the moment there is no news of flights opening up yet.
Q: What do you think this will do to prices when the lockdown ends?
Tom Luker: I think there was such a demand for housing before the lockdown that the market will rebound fairly quickly. We may see a levelling off, even a slight decline, but nothing like in 2008. The government is doing everything it can to stimulate the economy and help small businesses keep their employees on the payroll.
Start your research for your move when normality returns by reading up on all your financing options in our new guide, How to Pay for an America Property.
The national picture, by Amy Baker
Property professionals adapting
Rules vary between states, but most professionals are finding ways to view and buy safely. Sales that went under contract prior to lockdown have been able to continue, with closings being conducted via Zoom or drive-through Title Companies. Many have invented innovative ways to get property sales through online notarization without breaking social distancing guidelines. Some are finding simpler methods, such as being the other side of a window.
It is still possible to view property online via 3D, FaceTime and virtual reality tours, and many are jumping at the chance to do so. Indeed, some buyers see this as a good time to buy.
Experienced realtors believe there is pent-up overseas demand and expect there to be quite the queue of buyers once this is over. Don’t find yourself at the end of that queue: start doing your research now so you can act as soon as possible.
The national mood
In the USA those protesting that the lockdown is too draconian, ‘worse than the cure’ or anti-democratic have had support from President Trump. However, while in several states people have defied restrictions by taking to the streets to protest not being allowed to work, many across the USA have raised funds for medical professionals and vulnerable people.
Hollywood has sprung into action with the All in Challenge – a star-studded prize draw launched to feed those in need. With prizes up for grabs including walk-on roles in Robert de Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio’s new movie, personal performances from Justin Bieber and rounds of golf with Justin Timberlake and Bill Murray, it’s no surprise the fund has already raised millions.
A free eight-hour concert featuring some of the world’s biggest musicians performing from their homes was broadcast around the world. Acts included the Rolling Stones and Lady Gaga.
Elsewhere, businesses are ensuring the needs of the elderly population are met. When 93-year old Olive went viral on Facebook for holding up a sign at her window reading, “I need more beer!”, Coors Light leapt into action and sent her 150 cans to see her through the rest of the pandemic.
Plans for the lockdown end
Current national guidance is for three phases of easing of restrictions, slowly reopening businesses and allowing people to resume some measure of their social lives. Each phase will last a minimum of 14 days so their effect can be monitored before moving on to the next.
Some of the major recommendations involved ensuring employers develop policies to ensure social distancing, as well as contact tracing and testing.
Even with these guidelines being followed to the letter, Dr Anthony Fauci – Head of the White House coronavirus taskforce – has warned that the virus could rebound, or that they could experience setbacks.
Some states have allowed limited businesses to re-open but with strict social distancing measures in place. Boat-yards and marinas in three north-eastern states were reopened for private use last weekend.
In New York the lockdown has been extended to 15 May. California’s governor Gavin Newsom has said we are “weeks, not months” from restrictions beginning to be eased. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has warned that large gatherings including concerts and sporting events are unlikely to resume until 2021, and governors in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland have all issued orders or guidelines that residents must wear face masks once allowed back into society in the weeks to come.