Real estate in Amador County has followed an interesting path since California declared a public health emergency in March. We interviewed two real estate agents in the county to learn more about today’s real estate market.
Sally Bligh is a popular name in the area. You’ve probably seen her signs advertising properties for sale or lease around the county, especially Jackson and Martell. She’s an independent residential and commercial real estate agent who’s been in business since 2008.
Rebecca Barnes has been a residential real estate agent with Ione Realtors, an office of Jackson Realty, since 2016.
Realtors are considered essential workers during the emergency, so Bligh and Barnes have been hard at work helping owners and buyers.
The Residential Outlook
In February, business unexpectedly picked up for Bligh, who said she was “inundated with residential escrows and commercial leases.” Once the stay-at-home orders went into effect, Barnes noted, “there was a bit of a slow down.”
Barnes gave two reasons for the slowdown. First, “sellers placed their homes on hold until the virus had settled a bit.” What’s more, she said, “the stay-at-home order initially created uncertainty about whether or not clients were even allowed to see homes.”
This wasn’t just a California problem. Sally said she recently talked with a colleague in the Denver area, and Colorado has the same restrictions. That means real estate agents have to use protective equipment, including using slip-on shoe coverings, masks, gloves, and disinfected wipes.
When it comes to potential buyers, Barnes said, “it is my job to educate them” before they view a house. These restrictions obviously factor into the real estate market today but, Sally said, “these restrictions are reasonable.”
That means you can’t hop in the car and go view a number of houses in the area if you’re thinking about buying a house. Today, Bligh said, “you need to be pre-approved and have your funds ready.” Bligh added that these stricter requirements explain why she’s not seeing many multiple offers for houses these days.
Barnes and Bligh noted that the market is so active because inventory is low, prices remain steady, and mortgage rates are low. People entering the market, Bligh said, “will enter both a buyers and a sellers market.”
The Commercial Outlook
The commercial market is different in Amador County than it is in larger metropolitan areas like Sacramento, where Bligh predicts we’ll see a lot of shopping centers and malls become housing developments.
Though businesses have had some help with the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Bligh said that “if some business owners were on top of it, they would have had more success” getting PPP monies. Because some businesses didn’t succeed, Bligh predicted we’ll see more business closings and empty commercial buildings in the county.
In February, Bligh said but a couple of new leases were put on hold in March when the stay-at-home order went into effect. She said landlords have been accommodating, but added that if landlords want to see more rentals, “they’ll have to soften their requests for the next year after restrictions are lifted.”
The County Outlook
Barnes and Bligh are optimistic about the state of the real estate markets in Amador County, though it will likely mean future growth.
“I believe as we make our way through this trying time, we will see home prices increase as people move away from big cities and look toward our rural communities,” Barnes said. Bligh agreed and said that people who work from home and are looking for second homes will move to Amador County.
One reason, Bligh said, is because homes here are larger and families will have more room to live. And, Barnes added, “Amador County has the advantage of being close to many highways and major tourist areas.”
There is a pent-up demand for residential development, but Bligh said not to expect many new homes anytime soon because “contractors are still having problems getting things through,” even though construction is essential business.
The commercial property outlook is currently hard to gauge, though it’s logical to predict that as the economy recovers and more people move here, we’ll see an improved commercial real estate market.
Bligh hasn’t heard of federal help for shopping centers as yet. It’s easy to see more vacancies in some shopping centers such as the Amador Ridge Plaza in Martell. Indeed, Sally Bligh’s office, which was located in Amador Ridge Plaza, closed its doors and moved to a work-from-home model once the stay-at-home order went into effect.
Barnes and Bligh expect real estate to have a larger presence online during and after the emergency. “From offer to closing, the transaction can be handled through e-mail, phone calls, and video,” Barnes said. Bligh added that even though she’s adding to her social media presence, one thing won’t change in real estate: “We work very hard on relationships.”
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