How the Houston housing market is changing amid the pandemic

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Buying a home once included an in-person tour and a handshake, among other things.

Now, more people are experiencing their next living space through virtual tours and online video conferences, including home buyers and sellers in the Houston area.

The Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) said it's now using technology to show and sell homes virtually.

Thai Klam, a broker associate with Compass and chair for HAR's Technology Advisory group, said real estate agents adapted to the changing times.

"HAR immediately, when the stay-at-home order was issued, took off public open houses to protect the community, to protect agents, (and) to make sure people were not coming to visit properties." Klam said.

He said HAR will be live streaming open houses and showings starting this week.

"The tech team (is) developing technology tools, like not only the live streaming but also live showings, as well as a 360 badge on every listing that's a virtual tour, almost like you're in the property," Klam said.

Right now, it's too soon to tell just how much of an impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on the Houston housing market. He also said another economic factor for Houston is the oil and gas industry, which has recently seen a downfall.

"In 2015, when all the prices dropped dramatically, the prices were nearly cut in half and we went into a little recession there, but the market recovered here pretty quickly because other industries were able to absorb any layoffs that occurred in the particular time," Klam said. "Here, it's questionable because with oil prices being where they're at, there's not really a lot of other industries that have the ability to absorb. The challenge is still going to exist to see what happens if oil doesn't recover."

He said more people are being forced to sell their homes due to layoffs and furloughs but he's hopeful that the market will recover.

"We've seen about 1,000 less homes on the market right now at this moment than we would have in 2019," Klam said."We've seen buyers pull back, not only because of what's going on in relation to stay at home orders, but also many criteria have changed."

Klam recommends homeowners should make improvements to their homes that they have been delaying.

"The home is more important now than ever before," he said.
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