Kurt Sprigler, a Keller Williams Realty agent serving Destin and Santa Rosa Beach, shares agent Tomasz Bielenin’s positive outlook, saying it’s a "fantastic market." This can be an advantageous time for buyers, he said.

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The coronavirus hasn’t yet infected the real estate industry in Northwest Florida, and local real estate agents seem cautiously optimistic.

There is still a lot of real estate activity happening right now, said Tomasz Bielenin, an agent with Re/Max Agency One, Inc. in Crestview.

“I’m watching the hot sheet on MLS, where we see new listings and we see properties that go under contract and the ones that have sold and closed out,” Bielenin said. “We’re still seeing quite a bit of the same activity – probably not as much of a feeding frenzy as it was a couple of weeks ago on certain price points. That’s slowed down, probably because of the unknown. Overall, I still feel like we have a positive market. I feel like this is short term.”

What Bielenin has noticed is the delay of military transfers. He has one client moving to Florida for a job that has since been delayed.

“They’re not active in the military, but they are contractors on the military base and there was a pause placed on their job currently,” Bielenin said. “That’s the other aspect, when is their job gonna start? There’s a little question there of whether we delay this close or whether they feel comfortable with closing at all.”

One active duty military client was being transferred to the area in July and planned to close on a property in two weeks. They will move forward, Bielenin said.

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Bielenin has eight homes under contract that he still expects to close within the month.

“There’s obviously the unknown with everything shutting down, depending on how long this lasts,” Bielenin said. “I am sure there are some areas in the country where they’re not heavy military areas or a hot destination, then they will probably be dealing with some shortages for awhile on the real estate side. With our economy and local market being military and the tourist attraction and the growing Crestview area, I feel like we’re going to be OK.”

Kurt Sprigler, a Keller Williams Realty agent serving Destin and Santa Rosa Beach, shares Bielenin’s positive outlook, saying it’s a “fantastic market.” This can be an advantageous time for buyers, he said.

“Let’s say you have a $250,000 house in Destin and you’re going to move up into a bigger house that’s $400,000,” Sprigler said. “If you sell your house on a market that’s trending down, you might miss out on some money from the sell of your $250,000 house, but you have to remember, the next house you’re buying – the $400,000 house – is in a down market as well. You’re getting a better deal on buying up.”

Sprigler doesn’t think the pandemic should stop people under contract from purchasing or buyers overall.

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“You have to remember, real estate is a long-term play,” Sprigler said. “Most people aren’t flipping houses in six months. The average homeowner lives in a house for five to seven years. My question would be to that person, ‘Are you planning on vacationing here in the next five to seven years?’ If they say, ‘Yes,’ I would say, ‘In my opinion, I would move forward with purchasing the property you were going to buy anyways.’”

Sprigler has noticed people taking listings off the market, which is an advantage for sellers.

“Inventory goes up, typically the price goes down,” Sprigler said. “Whenever people start pulling these properties off the market, the people who still have houses available – that’s less competition for them. People still have to move.”

Sprigler has a strategy to avoid breaking the social distancing guidelines and spreading the coronavirus while selling. Technology has helped him sell 20 properties sight unseen.

“I’ve gotten really good at making sure the buyer is comfortable with what they’re getting before they’ve even seen it,” Sprigler said. “That, in my opinion, is the future.”

With social distancing recommendations, it has to be.

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“What we’ve done is utilize video walk-throughs,” Sprigler said. “That’s the best way to do it – and also doing pre-inspections. You can do a pre-home-inspection for around $300. The owner doesn’t have to be there. The buyer doesn’t have to be there. The inspector goes in, checks every system with the property.”

Because of the economic impact of the coronavirus, the decision of whether to sell is on more of a case-by-case basis, he said.

“Have they lost their job?” Sprigler said. “I was on a conference call yesterday with 12 of the top producing agents in the company and one of the agents lives in a city where they just furloughed 7,000 employees. Seven thousand people are thinking, ‘Am I going to have a job next month?’”

Sprigler has one potential solution for people concerned about their job security.

“If people have a lot of equity in their house, they can also refinance their house and pull that cash out to sustain them through these hard times,” Sprigler said. “So if you bought your house for $200,000 in Destin and it’s now worth $300,000, you can do a cash out, refinance at really low rates right now.”

But it’s a 30-day process, so they need to do it soon, he said.

“If this goes more than 30 to 60 days, the economic impact on our area is going to be huge,” Sprigler said. “It’s going to be unbelievable.”

Brandon Sexton, the owner of Diamond Gulf Realty, still has buyers and sellers, but has seen some negative effects of the coronavirus on real estate.

“Some high-end customers are holding off on buying due to the markets,” Sexton said. “Rental properties that are listed for sale are impacted as their income has been directly hit with the shut down of the beaches and closing of entertainment options nearby so many buyers are withdrawing or holding.”

It could be indicative of the future, too.

“Overall this will affect us in real estate, as buyers will stop buying while they can’t work, and sellers aren’t going to be able to sell an investment property that can’t do what it's designed to do while on shutdown,” Sexton said. “Those not affected financially are starting to hold for the anticipated market crash in hopes of getting a better deal. Time will tell.”