“It’s not dead!” said Matt Schrimpf, when asked how the Lake of the Ozarks real estate market is weathering Covid-19 shutdowns. “I sold three houses last weekend.”
Schrimpf, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Schrimpf Real Estate Group, says while he has seen some slowdown, it's far from catastrophic. Other local realtors agree: the market may look a bit different right now, but houses are still moving, and if anything, the Lake of the Ozarks still has a supply shortage.
“We have not had a big fallout with the contracts that were in place,” noted Jeff Krantz of RE/MAX Lake of the Ozarks. He pointed to numbers that show the Lake had an incredibly strong first quarter of 2020, too. For off-water homes, total sales volume of 1Q 2020 was up by 34 percent compared to 1Q 2019 ($39,248,198 compared to $29,336,125). Condo sales volume is up by 18 percent ($26,467,773 - 1Q 2020, compared to $22,365,961 - 1Q 2019). And lakefront home sales volume was up by 26 percent ($53,766,610 - 1Q 2020, compared to $42,794,850 - 1Q 2019).
Helen Riggins, of RE/MAX at the Lake, Helen’s Sellin’ Team, says she thinks some of the home-shopping activity has been moved to potential buyers’ couches: “Buyers are still looking… they’re probably at home, spending more time on the Internet than they would normally.” That could actually signal a coming surge in home-buying once the Covid slowdown ends.
The Unique Lake Market
No one wanted the Covid-19 crisis, but Krantz points out the Lake of the Ozarks real estate market was uniquely positioned to come out of it with minimal damage.
“We’re a ‘want’ not a ‘need’ market,” he explained, and that makes it easier for people to abide by the new “rules of the game” regarding safety.
Additionally, a high percentage of Lake of the Ozarks properties are vacant this time of year, making it easier for realtors to show properties to potential buyers without the homeowner having to worry about bringing people through their home.
Lake homes typically sell to people who do not live here full-time, and that means local realtors have been long accustomed to Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype calls with potential buyers who want a walkthrough of the house they’re interested in. And as many industries have been forced to quickly pivot to online interactions during Covid-19 shutdowns, Krantz said real-estate related businesses are doing it well: title companies, appraisers, inspectors all are still finding ways to do their jobs. In fact, title companies are now able to notarize via video, he said.
Finally, the Lake of the Ozarks real estate market was already tight on inventory, and that gave the market some wiggle room for demand to soften slightly during this temporary slowdown. “Our inventories were at a really healthy mark or even low at some price points,” Krantz explained, saying that has positioned the Lake to rebound quickly. “The Lake went into this strong and that’s going to tell the tale on how we come out of it,” he said with confidence.
Homes Are Selling
Homes and condos are still selling at the Lake, and DeeDee Jacobs, of Jacobs Real Estate Partners eXp Realty, shared two stories of recent sales:
Locals David M. & Lisa S. are still hunting for their perfect home during the pandemic. Most showings are done virtually until they narrow the list down, then we visit their top homes in person. Taking every precaution, their Realtor Carol Duke, arrives to the property early and wipes everything down with Clorox wipes, before having clients walk thru. We all wear masks & gloves, and stay a safe distance apart. Carol wipes everything down again before leaving the property. The two photos are of Carol Duke Broker/Associate with Jacobs Real Estate Partners, eXp Realty and David and Lisa sporting their new real estate gear! — Carol Duke - Broker/Associate, Jacobs RE Partners eXp Realty
I’ve had a condo listing on the market for a bit of time. This unit was listed well before the outbreak and spread of COVID 19. Great unit, just not for everyone and both I and the sellers knew that it would take some time to find the right buyers. While the COVID 19 virus has slowed real estate at the lake down, properties are still selling. This past weekend, this sweet little condo unit received multiple offers and is now under contract. My sellers are ecstatic and it’s proof positive that real estate at Lake of the Ozarks is still in demand! — Dee Dee Jacobs, Team Lead, Jacobs Real Estate Partners eXp Realty
While things have certainly not ground to a halt, realtors also agree they have noticed changes wrought by the coronavirus crisis. “Our showings are down substantially,” Krantz acknowledged.
Schrimpf added, “I know for a fact that it has slowed down. Typically in April we’d be way busier.”
Adding to the sluggishness, says Schrimpf, is some sellers’ reticence to allow showings. Some sellers are leaving their homes on the market while temporarily refusing to let anyone come in to see them. A partial solution has been video walkthroughs and ample photos, but of course it’s unlikely any buyer would sign on the dotted line before they’ve actually set foot in the house.
Interesting Developments & Adaptations
As in nearly every area of business and personal life, the coronavirus crisis has created some interesting developments in Lake of the Ozarks real estate. It’s not “business as usual,” Krantz said, but “business as unusual.”
Of course, realtors emphasize they’re being careful to limit foot traffic in homes to only serious buyers and extra diligent about cleaning after walk-throughs. Krantz said his team is focusing on strengthening personal connections with their clients. “We’re urging our agents to call all their people… everybody’s lonely.”
Annie Faulstich, broker/owner of Lakefront Living Realty, recalled a recent story of video-shopping with her home-stager to help get a client’s home ready to sell. “We offer staging with all of our listings. With only Wal-Mart open I went with mask and gloves on while I FaceTimed my stager as she walked me through three carts full of home decor. We got it staged and on the market! We are adapting to the situation and keeping everyone safe.”
But beyond cleanliness measures and phone calls, agents and teams are noticing changes in buyer and seller behavior.
Krantz points to one particularly interesting number. In 2018, RE/MAX Lake of the Ozarks’ average number of showings before a house sold was 12. In 2019, that number dropped to 9. Since the Covid-19 slowdowns, Krantz has been watching that number, and he says it has been cut nearly in half. “We are down to 5 showings to generate an accepted contract,” he said. Buyers are doing their homework, online. “Nobody is wasting time, nobody just out looking… they have a reason,” he said, noting activity on his social media pages and website has seen an uptick.
Schrimpf said he has noticed what many who live at the Lake have seen too: many lakefront homeowners are at their Lake home, working and homeschooling from there, as major Midwest cities are shut down. “My clients are coming down to use their place,” he said. “‘Hey Matt we came down here for two weeks. We’re working from home, the kids are out of school!’” Those incidents, he said, can often temporarily preclude showings at the house, or at least make them more difficult.
Riggins says some buyers have thought there may be an opportunity to snatch up property from sellers who have panicked. She has seen multiple extremely lowball offers in the past few weeks and is required to communicate all offers to her clients. “The answer was just ‘no,’” Riggins said. Sellers at Lake of the Ozarks do not appear to be panicked.
Realtors aren’t panicked either.
“I’m not scared… I think we’ll be fine,” Schrimpf said. “I think the Lake’s still going to be a great place for the summer.”
Other realtors agree. Faulstich points out that all the staying-home may very well result in buyers who have already done their research online, and will be ready to buy.
Riggins predicts the same: “I expect once things get better, we’ll be inundated with buyers,” she said, pointing out the comparable phenomenon of demand-surges after a severe winter finally ends.
Every October at the Lake, RE/MAX hosts a Real Estate Symposium that is attended by hundreds of local realtors and—after providing data and interesting developments in Lake area real estate—always ends with some predictions by symposium leaders Jeff Krantz and Jason Whittle. Well, unsurprisingly, in 2019’s symposium no one predicted a major virus would grind certain segments of the U.S. economy to a halt and throw a wrench in every other sector. But, Krantz says he still thinks his symposium prediction of another strong year at the Lake will come true. He surmises the Covid-19 shutdowns and slowdowns have created pent-up demand. “The Lake will recover relatively quickly,” he projected. People still want to be at Lake of the Ozarks, and he expects those who had plans to buy a Lake home are going to be driven now more than ever to get that done this year.
“The majority of the people that come to the Lake to buy are that type of person,” Krantz said. “They’re driven, and it’s hard to get them to slow down.”