Editor's Note: This is one in a series of profiles of Americans struggling with the economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The spring season is normally very busy for Iowa real estate broker Georgia Weaver, but not these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would normally be showing three-to-five properties a day and writing several offers a day, and my staff, my agents, would be, too,” Weaver says. “We are down probably about 60%.”
Weaver runs her own firm with a staff of about six people in picturesque Storm Lake, Iowa, a city in the northwestern part of the state with an estimated population of 10,458 people.
The downturn Weaver’s firm is experiencing reflects nationwide trends, according to the National Association of Realtors.
“Buyers and sellers are taking a step back from purchasing right now, and from selling their home,” says Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral Insights for NAR. “So many of them are taking their homes off the market and pausing that transaction for a few months for either health concerns or for economic concerns.”
Nationwide, more than half of all sellers, 56%, are delaying putting their home on the market for at least a couple of months, according to NAR. On the buying side, 44% of people looking for a new home are delaying the search for now, while about 22% of buyers are stopping altogether because they're concerned about job security and their future income.
For Weaver, the lost income is not a financial disaster, at least not yet. She says she has enough money saved to keep the office going until August or September. She’s also applied for paycheck protection, a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration to enable businesses to keep paying their employees during the pandemic.
And there are still some people who have to move, whether it’s due to a new job, retirement, marriage or divorce. Weaver’s employees are all working from home. And while Weaver is doing more of her work online, she is still showing homes to some potential buyers in person.
“I'm concerned, I mean, I had stage four breast cancer, and that worries me a lot, getting around people that maybe could have this, because it could kill me,” she says, adding that she relies on her faith to get her through. “I am a Christian, and this certainly will make me a stronger one. I believe God's in control, and we're still called to do what we need to do.”
Weaver says she sends messages to U.S. President Donald Trump about how important it is to support small businesses and independent contractors.
“I don't know if he ever reads it or not, but I do occasionally,” Weaver says. “That's important. That's what makes up America. I mean, yes, we have these bigger companies, but that's not what America was built on. That's still not the main driving force in America. It's the people that get out there and get their hands dirty and they do the work.”
Weaver sat down with each of her employees to fill out paperwork to see if they could get government help.
“They all qualified...so I know that they're not out there wondering, ‘What in the world am I going to do?’” she says. “That's important, you know, the assistance, especially for the independent contractors of small business, but also being fiscally responsible is important. And I'm hoping that this stuff shows people they need to save money.”
In addition, it’s planting season in Iowa right now and there are jobs to be had helping farmers, according to Weaver. Looking ahead, she expects her real estate business to pick up, possibly in the fall, or whenever coronavirus restrictions and fears ease.
The National Association of Realtors is also confident the real estate market will bounce back.
“We are expecting that there will be a rebound and a quick rebound,” Lautz says. “We're likely going to come out of this with a baby boom...and we have already seen that shelters across the country have been cleared out of animals and pets. And that is a very large driver for a lot of adults to purchase homes.”