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House flippers 'surprisingly unaffected' by COVID-19, but brace for mixed bag in months to come

Milan Polk, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

In March, the shutdown slowed business, some home flippers said. Condominiums could not undergo renovations in some cases, as condo associations limited entry to the building as a way of lessening exposure to the virus, said Ryan Muehling, a managing real estate broker at The Porter Group.

"The pandemic really disrupted our spring market, especially in the downtown (Chicago) area where we work in larger buildings," Muehling said.

As a whole, the real estate market rebounded quickly as the country began loosening COVID-19 restrictions, and consumers resumed buying and selling. With markedly low interest rates, buyers were unwilling to put off their search for long, and sellers are frequently getting multiple offers above asking price, agents said.

Social distancing is also easy to manage when flipping homes, which typically involves vacant properties that can be renovated in relative isolation. Plus, contractors working on homes already have the necessary gear. "In general, they're wearing masks," said Chicago house flipper Anton Downing. "N95 masks are standard anyway."

Downing and his brother, Anthony Downing, who star in the DIY channel house flipping show "Double Down," have done well this year, despite the pandemic, they said.

"We've definitely been doing consultations," Anthony Downing said. "We've been on-site for plenty of renovations."

 

It has been easier to adjust to the pandemic than to the Great Recession, in part because of changes made to banking practices following the recession, Anton Downing said.

"This pandemic is much different than 2008, because we didn't have a landslide inside of a 12-month period," he said. "Things are stable now that banks are prepared."

Goldman has also found that homeowners have a safety net. "There's been a real pause in foreclosures. I think Congress has tried to keep people in their homes," said Goldman.

There have been changes to adapt to; showing homes to potential buyers is difficult when the state imposed restrictions on open houses and showings of occupied homes.

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