In Mid-March, the coronavirus pandemic sent the Santa Barbara County into lockdown over major health concerns. Both estate buyers and sellers alike stayed off the scene for fear of infections, and people were unsure of their job’s safety.  According to Renee Grubb, owner of Village Properties, there were concerns as buyers and sellers left the scene. But fears have disappeared as activities have resumed in the past month.  Santa Barbara real estate activities have resumed, and agents are busier than before the lockdown even though they now adapt to virtual showings.  Reports from the California Association of Realtors show that business is also looking up in the city. 

Between the end of March and early April, properties fell out of escrow as deals got canceled. Village properties also saw a 50% dip in business as compared to 2019. Grubb noticed that Santa Barbara’s real estate activities started improving since mid-April, and all they are waiting for is what deals they will close. High-end property agents have also resumed operations for a few weeks, and agents hope to close new deals.

For some parts of Santa Barbara, work never slowed down
While some agents celebrate the return of activities, other agents didn’t even suffer slow business during the lockdown. Cristal Clarke is one of those agents who continued working long hours without stopping.  Buyers in San Francisco and Los Angeles expressed their interest, especially in Santa Barbara real estate properties under $10 million.   Clarke believes that the reason businesses didn’t suffer a downturn is because people love Santa Barbara and Montecito and want to put things in place now, not the distant future. She expects clients to come in from several parts of the United States in the coming months.

Uncertainty Surrounding Virtual Showing 
The district manager for Berkshire Hathaway Home Service California Properties, Kyle Kemp, believes that the unfamiliarity with using virtual tools for business transactions was partly responsible for slowed business in the first week. In no time, many agents caught up with the use of virtual tools for showings, and people also realized that Santa Barbara houses were not going anywhere soon. With this realization, the business continued to thrive. Kemp noted that sales went down by 60% in the first week. But things have drastically improved, and sales are only 20% behind now. Property inquiries in California have also seen a 206% increase when compared to the figures of 2019. Most buyers have quickly taken to technology and expressed interest in moving to Santa Barbara and Montecito from cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

Most buyers who expressed interest and purchased Santa Barbara houses are from California. Still, prospective buyers all around the U.S are also looking to come once it is safe to do so. Buyers looking to purchase Santa Barbara houses within the range of $3 million to $10 million will want to physically see these properties as virtual showings can only do so much. More interested buyers of properties than sellers is a significant challenge Increased demands noticed in April and May amid a shortage of Santa Barbara houses is the current challenge for agents. Since the start of 2020, there were already low numbers of houses in the market. With a growing number of interested buyers and fewer persons looking to sell their Santa Barbara house, agents are overloaded.

Agents have also not seen any downward trend in housing prices even though they expected the pandemic to have such an effect. According to Kemp, the current situation is more difficult for buyers than sellers as sellers have no competition while sellers are making multiple offers for few houses.  Agents also have a lot of work and problems with their inventories as they are fielding several offers, especially for Santa Barbara houses under the $1 million mark. It is set to be a tough market this year.  Grubb believes that if the Santa Barbara real estate suffers any losses, it will be in a single-figure percentage. She is particularly enthusiastic that they might reach sales figures for 2019 or come close. Although March was an uncertain month for real estate business in Santa Barbara, agents are looking forward to an increase in interests and a good business year as buyers are quickly adjusting to buying houses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.