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Washington Nationals Shortstop Trea Turner Snags $3.25M Home in Florida

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Just a few weeks before baseball season was supposed to begin, Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner snared a brand-new home in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

The 26-year-old Florida native grew up in Lake Worth, which is about 20 miles south of the nearly 6,000-square-foot property he owns. His purchase also makes sense—the Nats spring training complex is in nearby West Palm Beach.

Turner paid $3.25 million for the home, which was listed for $3,475,000.

Built last year, the five-bedroom residence sits on a 1.3-acre lot with mature trees and lush landscaping. If Turner and wife Kristen like to entertain, this home is a dream. Features include a media room, a kitchen equipped with Miele appliances and white lacquered cabinetry, and an open layout.

The formal dining area—with a glass-enclosed wine cellar—and a spacious living room are marked by a contemporary, see-through fireplace. A built-in desk adjacent to the kitchen is perfect for a home cook to store cookbooks or peruse recipes online.


Living room


One of the bedrooms

Master bath

Another bath

Custom closet

Custom closet

The home is well-equipped with two custom closets. Connected to the master bedroom is a master bath with a soaking tub, white marble flooring, and tiled walk-in shower.

The remaining four bedrooms feature en-suite baths, ideal for hosting overnight guests. A three-car garage also helps accommodate visitors. The home’s design also includes a laundry room with a sink and ample cabinetry.

Taking full advantage of Florida’s sunny climate, a 1,000-square-foot covered loggia is appointed with a kitchen, phantom screens, fireplace, and TV. The sleek pool is bordered with slatelike tiles, to match the hot tub.

Turner broke into the MLB in 2015 and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2016. He helped lead the Nationals to their first-ever World Series title last fall. In January, he signed a one-year contract for $7,450,000, according to USA Today.

Michael Leibowitz of Leibowitz Realty Group represented the seller, and Richard Raymond of Re/Max represented the buyer.



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Tourist Towns Say, ‘Please Stay Away,’ During Coronavirus Lockdowns

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Resort towns rely on visitors as their economic lifeblood, but as the new coronavirus pandemic rages, many are asking nonresidents to stay away.

More than 12,000 residents of Cape Cod, Mass., signed a petition this week asking authorities to turn away visitors and nonresident homeowners from the two bridges that are the only roads in to the Boston-area summertime playland.

“It’s a stay-at-home order for a reason,” said Beth Hickman of South Yarmouth, who started the petition, in a local talk-radio interview Thursday. “It’s not about going to your second home because it’s a vacation.”

From Sedona, Ariz., to the Florida Keys, tourist spots across the country are trying to figure out ways to keep outsiders from bringing the new coronavirus with them. In some cases, that means taking aggressive steps like banning people who own second homes from their own property. In other cases, it means shutting down key access points. Full-time residents in these communities say their health-care systems weren’t built to handle pandemics and shutting out visitors is the only way to avoid disaster.

Pamela Wilkes, a retired health-care executive who lives in Albany, N.Y., but who owns a second home on the Cape, said the petition is outrageous. “My thought is I’m a taxpayer of Massachusetts,” she said. “I substantially support local business.”

But other nonresident homeowners say they understand and plan to stay away.

“There are 70- and 80-year-old retirees down there that are sort of our best friends,” said Tom Chamberlain, an insurance agent in Bridgewater, Mass., whose family has had a home on the Cape since the 1960s. “I think people shouldn’t be going down there to use up the resources and also infect them.”

Massachusetts officials said in a statement that they have no plans to set up roadblocks on the bridges for now. Visitors from out of state are asked via electronic signs all over the Cape to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The Island of North Haven, Maine, adopted a resolution last month strongly urging outsiders except those providing essential services not to come to the island in Penobscot Bay, reversing what had been a ban on outsiders coming to the island of 355 permanent residents. The island has a clinic, but no hospital.

Tourist boards and mayors of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.; Sedona, Ariz.; and Moab, Utah, are all discouraging visitors and asking or even ordering hotels and short-term rentals to stop booking.

The Florida Keys last week banned visitors but not property owners from the chain of islands. The Outer Banks of North Carolina banned both visitors and nonresident homeowners as of mid-March. Both areas have set up roadblocks to enforce the bans.

Dorothy Hester, public information officer for Dare County, which includes the Outer Banks, said law enforcement is sticking to the restrictions despite homeowners trying to gain access.

The county of 36,000 permanent residents has just one hospital with 24 beds and no intensive-care unit, she said. In the summer, when the population swells to 300,000, “they see things like a fish hook in the finger,” she said. More serious cases are transported by helicopter to trauma centers that can be hours away by car.

Dare County officials on Thursday reported three cases of Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The right to travel isn’t explicit in the Constitution, but judges have invoked it to strike down laws like those passed in California to stop migration during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, said Rick Su, a law professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill. The rights are more limited in a time of emergency. It is unlikely that a court would have time to rule on any challenge since the situation is so fluid and fast-moving, he said.

Cape Cod has 214,000 permanent residents and about twice as many in the summer, according to the local Chamber of Commerce. The hook-shaped cape, which is technically a man-made island because of a canal, has two hospitals with 354 beds and capacity to ramp up to 500, according to Cape Cod Healthcare. The system has 116 ICU beds and 80 ventilators, a spokeswoman said.

The state is reporting 283 cases of Covid-19 in Barnstable County, which includes the Cape.

Cape Cod’s Ms. Hickman, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, said in her radio interview that she decided to start the petition when she saw New York license plates at the grocery store or the beach. Normally, visitors and nonresident property owners don’t arrive on the island for another month or so, she said.

“I think it’s a fear response,” said Olaf Valli, who owns a surf shop in Wellfleet and grew up on the Cape but spends part of each week with his family in New Jersey. “We’re fighting a microscopic thing that we don’t have much understanding of. It’s easy to point the finger and blame anything that’s not familiar.”

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‘S.W.A.T.’ Star Shemar Moore Has Issued an APB for a Buyer in Encino

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Actor Shemar Moore has put his sunny Mediterranean-style residence in Encino, CA, on the market for $2,596,000.

The “S.W.A.T.” star recently purchased an even swankier and bigger mansion in Sherman Oaks for $5.8 million.

Moore purchased his five-bedroom Encino digs in 2007 for $2.5 million. Built in 1963, the two-story home has been meticulously remodeled and expanded to accommodate a large family and allow space for entertaining.

The tile-roofed, 3,634-square-foot home hews close to the Mediterranean aesthetic and features wrought-iron balconies and railings, arched windows and doorways, sturdy plaster walls, elegant wood floors, and colorful Spanish tile finishes.

Sitting majestically above street level, the home features a custom waterfall and private courtyard out front.

Encino, CA, home exterior

Living room

The master suite features a wood-beamed, 12-foot ceiling, a fireplace, a spacious walk-in closet, and a bathroom with plenty of natural light and a spa tub. It also comes with two balconies, and an adjacent room could be used as an office or gym.

Master suite

Master closet

The chef’s kitchen features marble countertops, a center island and bar, and Thermador appliances, including a six-burner stove. The space is flanked by the formal dining room and the living/family room.

Spacious kitchen

However, the heart of the home is the light-filled family/game room, with it cathedral ceiling and French doors, which open to a luxe yard out back.

Game/family room

The backyard truly makes the home feel like a secluded villa in the middle of the Santa Monica mountains.

Tall palm trees shade lush lawns, and there’s an inviting pool with a raised spa and Baja shelf. There’s also a fire pit, conversation areas, and a free-standing sauna. The 12,591-square-foot lot is quite large for the neighborhood.


Just north of Mulholland Drive and west of Interstate Highway 405, the home is located near restaurants and shops on Ventura Boulevard, as well as L.A.’s posh Westside and all the excellent schools in the area.

Moore, 49, rose to fame on “The Young and the Restless.” After starring on the soap opera for over a decade, he transitioned to the CBS crime series “Criminal Minds,” where he had another decadelong stint before becoming the lead on the “S.W.A.T.” reboot.

Rodeo Realty agent Milla Pariser has the listing.

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David and Victoria Beckham Procure Posh Miami Penthouse for $20M

Karwai Tang/WireImage

David and Victoria Beckham have added Miami to their property portfolio.

The A-list couple purchased the $20 million penthouse in the newly completed building by Pritzker Award–winning architect Zaha Hadid.

The structure known as One Thousand Museum reportedly cost $280 million to build. It boasts a striking design that has been called “one of the most complex skyscrapers ever to make it off the drawing board.”

The lavish, full-floor condo was procured through Beckham Brand Limited, the partnership and licensing company owned by the soccer star. The sale was made some months ago and just formally closed. 

One Thousand Museum tower

Courtesy Lifestyle Production Group

Living and dining space

One Thousand Museum

Bath with views

One Thousand Museum

Indoor lap pool

Courtesy Lifestyle Production Group

The couple’s new pad in Miami follows on the heels of another big acquisition in the area. The soccer legend is now the co-owner of Inter Miami CF, the city’s new Major League Soccer team. 

David posted a video of the team’s new (and empty) stadium two weeks ago, with the comment, “Special day showing the family what we have built.”

“With the launch of Inter Miami CF, David and his team are spending significant amounts of time in Miami,” according to his spokesperson. “One Thousand Museum is a very special building, and we are excited to join the community there.”

Officially opened in 2019, the 62-floor tower offers luxe amenities, including a private helipad and airport, a Sky Lounge for dining and private events, on-site bank vault, private beach club, fitness center and spa, and an indoor lap pool. 

The building is in walking distance to Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, American Airlines Arena, Perez Art Museum Miami, and shops and restaurants at the upcoming Miami World Center. It’s only minutes away from South Beach and the Miami International Airport. 

“We are thrilled to represent one of Miami’s most iconic developments,” says Daniel de la Vega, president of One Sotheby’s International Realty. “One Thousand Museum is one of the world’s most revolutionary architectural masterpieces and is the most identifiable tower in downtown Miami.”

Now 44, David won league titles in four countries and played in 115 matches for the English national team. After a 20-year career and 19 major trophies, the magnificent midfielder retired from the pitch. He’s still in touch with the sport as the co-owner of Inter Miami CF and co-owner of Salford City. Victoria is a fashion designer and former member of the Spice Girls.

De La Vega’s One Sotheby’s International Realty Development Division is the exclusive listing agency for One Thousand Museum. One Sotheby’s agent Robert Hite also brokered the deal.

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Do You Have the Right To Know If Your Neighbors Have Coronavirus?

Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As the cases of coronavirus have surged and an increasing number of Americans are sheltering in place, more people are worried about catching COVID-19 from their neighbors. And while the prospect of having an infected neighbor in a cul-de-sac is scary, it’s far more terrifying if you live in a large apartment, co-op, or condo building with everyone sharing (and even coughing in) the same elevators, laundry rooms, and other common spaces.

The issue: At present, building owners and boards aren’t legally required to disclose whether someone tests positive for COVID-19—even if many of the building residents are elderly or have underlying health conditions, say real estate attorneys. However, federal, state, and city laws seem to be changing by the day, so new requirements could come into play at anytime.

But most buildings are sending emails and memos to let folks know if one of their neighbors has contracted the virus so that they can take extra precautions. However, real estate attorneys and lawyers have strongly advised boards, building managers, and property managers against revealing who’s contracted the virus and which unit they live in. And residents can’t be evicted or asked to leave just because they’re sick.

“From a legal perspective, we’re in uncharted territory,” says Omaha, NE–based housing attorney Scott Moore of Baird Holm. “The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits inquiries into whether a tenant has a disability and the nature and extent of their disabilities. That would include questions about medical conditions.”

But federal and state regulations are being shaped and reshaped as the crisis mounts. So just because there aren’t COVID-19 disclosure requirements today, doesn’t mean there won’t be tomorrow.

“The concern is privacy issues versus contaminating an entire building,” says real estate attorney Edward Mermelstein, a partner at One & Only Holdings in New York City. “Every management agent is doing this by the seat of their pants.”

What can building managers disclose about a resident who has COVID-19?

There also aren’t any universal guidelines for management companies and boards on what they can tell worried neighbors about an infected person living in their building.

Some aren’t informing residents, but some are. In fact, some are even disclosing which floor those folks live on—which many real estate attorneys believe is a step too far in compromising the sick person’s privacy.

“The idea is to keep others from getting infected,” says Mermelstein.

It’s also to protect the health of building staff. No one wants superintendents or other apartment building personnel to unknowingly enter an apartment where someone is sick to make a minor repair and wind up contracting the virus.

But most buildings managers are highly sensitive about the need to keep information that an infected resident isn’t comfortable with from being blasted out there.

“Disclosing against the wishes of the infectee could potentially expose the board to a lawsuit,” says New York City–based attorney Aaron Shmulewitz, who represents co-op and condo boards. He is a partner at Belkin Burden Goldman.

Buildings that don’t disclose that an infected person lives there could be opening themselves up to a lawsuit, warns Michael Spence, a Seattle-based real estate attorney with Helsell Fetterman.

“God forbid someone catches the virus from a neighbor,” Spence says.

Are residents required to inform building management if they contract COVID-19?

Concerned neighbors may have to keep guessing if someone in their building has gotten sick with the virus. As we’ve mentioned, legally folks aren’t required to let the people a flight below, down the hall, or next door know about their health conditions, and their neighbors don’t have a legal right to know either.

Ethically, however, some folks argue that they should. This allows management to clean the infected person’s hallway, elevator, and stairwells a little more frequently and maybe even add an extra bottle of hand sanitizer in the lobby. And it allows residents to be extra careful when entering the package room or opening doors in the building.

But some folks may fear the stigma that comes along with being the person in 5B with COVID-19.

“It’s the right thing to do. It’s the neighborly thing to do,” says attorney Shmulewitz. “[But] once you let it out, it could be impossible to get it back in. That’s why many people may not disclose it.”

The same privacy protections for residents may not extend to building employees. Residents are going to want to know if an infected handy person has been in their unit.

And if such workers do come forward, buildings can’t contain them in their apartments or demand that they don’t use elevators or other common spaces without a court order. These folks also can’t be evicted or asked to temporarily leave just for having the virus.

“There’s no legal playbook for any of this,” says Shmulewitz. “We’re all making it up as we go along.”

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Marc Bell’s Wild ‘Star Trek’-Themed Mansion Explores a 43 Percent Price Cut

The financier Marc Bell has boldly relisted his “Star Trek”-themed mansion in Boca Raton, FL, for $19.9 million. It’s yet another major price cut to entice a buyer who sees the logic behind this one-of-a-kind residence.

The home from another galaxy made headlines in 2014, when it landed on the market for $35 million. In 2018, the home teleported back into our lives for $34.5 million. Last year, the price came down to $25 million and then subsequently dropped to $22.9 million.

Now, the property has returned for another trip around the real estate universe—at a price 43% lower than it was six years ago.

Bell, a sci-fi superfan and the managing partner of Marc Bell Capital, custom-built the 20,000-square-foot home, complete with an homage to the iconic TV show. 

However, from the street, the Mediterranean-style mansion in an exclusive enclave gives no hint as to what’s inside. 

Mark Bell’s Boca Raton residence

Two-story entry

“Star Trek”-themed theater

Bar, also with “Star Trek” theme

Sitting room with Yoda art

Rec room with arcade games

Family room

Guests enter and are greeted by a grand two-story foyer with a curved staircase. High ceilings and white walls showcase a motorized chandelier and an impressive art collection. 

But the star of the show is the home’s homage to “Star Trek.” Trekkies will appreciate the level of detail in the home theater, which is built to resemble the fictional space ship Enterprise, complete with captain chairs, starry sky, and doors that make the familiar “whoosh” sound when opened.

Want to watch a movie? Make it so! A connected themed bar lets you “engage” in a drink during a show.

More memorabilia spills over into a sitting room, where framed Yoda art from “Star Wars” is the focus. In addition, there’s a massive rec room with a 150-gallon fish tank, bar, and arcade games (which will leave with the owner).

Conventional amenities include a formal living room and dining room, as well as a family room. The large kitchen features a marble island and countertops, as well as multiple casual eating areas, Miele, Wolf, and Sub-Zero appliances, plus a built-in espresso maker. Other perks include a 1,500-bottle wine room, an elevator, and a gym. 

The nine-bedroom spread has a master suite with dual baths and two walk-in closets. Additional bedrooms are decorated with a pirate theme and the video game “Call of Duty.” 

Outside, the grounds include a pool with rock formations and a cascading waterfall, as well as a heated spa. An outdoor kitchen contains a barbecue center and dining area. Along with multiple patios, there’s a sport court and room for a helipad. 

The gated home sits in an enclave of the Woodfield Country Club and is outfitted with automated systems that control security, lights, and audio.

Max Kiejdan with Marc Bell Real Estate holds the listing.

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Classic in Austin Designed by University of Texas Dean of Architecture Is Listed for $3.7M

Austin home designed by University of Texas Architecture Dean

Inspired by his travels in Mexico, the late architect Hal Box designed his dream home in the Deep Eddy neighborhood of Austin, TX, and completed the residence in 1983.

Now the 5,300-square-foot home is on the market for $3,700,000, listed with Cathy Romano of Compass. Box’s design features five bedrooms and 6.5 baths, and sits on an acre of land. Downtown Austin is 3 miles from the home.

As Romano notes, “You’re a block away from MoPac, which is our feeder road that runs through Austin. You think you have your own house in the woods, because you have such privacy.”

Box, dean emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, led the program between 1976 and 1992 and passed away in 2011.

“Hal Box had such an influence in changing the shape of the architecture school,” says Romano. “He made it into what it is today.”

Before Box and his wife, Edie, built the home, the couple lived next door. According to Edie, Hal worked with a builder, John Caldwell, and “put his heart and soul into this house,” says Romano.

“If you look at some of the lines in that house, it’s stunning,” she adds. “When you’re there, you can see all the influences he brought back from Mexico. He used to have big parties—the whole architecture department over.”


The living room feels just as bright and lively as when it was first conceived, thanks to its open concept, brightened by a skylight, etched walls, stone fireplace, oversized windows, and 30-foot ceilings.

With shimmery ivory backsplash tiles, a Wolf range, as well as an island with blue cabinetry, a dedicated sink, and a butcher-block countertop, the kitchen, also open concept, is well-suited for entertaining.

Edie ran a real estate business out of the home, often using a built-in desk on the second floor.


Living room

Another view of the living room


One of the bedrooms

Another bedroom

One of the bathrooms

Another bathroom














































































































































































The current owners bought the house in 2012 and are now moving on—but are eager to show off the updates they’ve made. This includes new engineered wood flooring and marble countertops in the master suite (along with his-and-hers toilets).

A local company, Luxury Lane Staging, prepped the home for market by installing new carpet, new light fixtures in the kitchen, and updating the deck with benching and stairs, as well as painting interior spaces white.

“Instead of adding years to the house, we took them off,” says Romano.

The master bedroom—which includes a custom-built, walk-in closet and a deck overlooking the yard—overlooks a dry creek that runs through the property (featuring a pedestrian bridge).

The pool features a waterfall feature, further linking the home to its natural surroundings. Concerned about the noise from MoPac, Box installed the waterfall to buffer the sound.

During the 1990s, a local architect, Dick Clark, reimagined the kitchen, adding the island and quartz countertops.

What kind of person might step up to be the next caretaker? Romano feels it will be an out-of-state buyer attracted to its convenient access to downtown.

“It’s going to be someone who likes the privacy and the location, and still wants to have a big house,” says Romano, adding that it’s also “the perfect house if you want people to have some distance” from one another.





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Builders Were Scrambling To Fill a Severe Housing Shortage—and Then the Coronavirus Hit. What Now?

Irina Kulikova/Getty Images

Before most Americans had even heard of the new coronavirus or COVID-19, the nation was suffering from a severe housing shortage. Builders couldn’t put homes up fast enough to satisfy the hordes of eager buyers and renters. But the global pandemic and ensuing financial crisis have put home construction on ice, setting the stage for an even worse housing shortage when the economy recovers.

Construction is not considered an essential business in at least five states, including hard-hit New York and Washington. That means job sites have been forced to close as state orders supersede the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s guidance designating residential construction as an “essential infrastructure business.”

Even in places where builders are allowed to carry on as normal, buyer demand for new homes is waning. That’s likely to lead builders to put up fewer homes, at least until the crisis subsides. When you consider that more sellers are pulling their properties off the market due to health concerns or fears their homes won’t fetch top dollar, there’s little doubt the housing shortage will be exacerbated.

The pandemic “is likely to slow housing construction, reducing supply,” says Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders. “Fortunately, many state governments have deemed home building and remodeling as an essential service, thus allowing many of the currently 500,000 or so single-family homes that are under construction to move forward.”

Housing starts, which count homes that have begun construction but are not completed, were expected to reach 1.3 million units this year, NAHB had predicted in January. While that was to be a 2% increase from the previous year, it was still well shy of the 1.5 million average starts that were typical of the years before the housing crash and the Great Recession. But these predictions were made well before COVID-19 exploded into a worldwide crisis, and now there are likely to be far fewer.

Even in states where construction is permitted, it’s not business as usual.

Residential construction is “likely to decline due to concerns of falling demand and delays in obtaining permit approval due to local government shutdowns,” says Dietz. “How large this impact will be is difficult to estimate.”

Builders in much of the nation are now encountering new problems in getting permit and engineering approvals as local government offices are closing down or going remote. Plus, it’s getting harder to get materials.

Which parts of the country will be hardest-hit by the coronavirus?

Some parts of the country, particularly experiencing the most cases and deaths, will likely be more affected than others. Five states—New York, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, and Pennsylvania—have prohibited construction, according to NAHB.  

In New York, the nation’s epicenter of COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered most construction, including the majority of residential buildings, be halted last week. The exceptions include affordable housing, emergency repairs, hospitals, and infrastructure.

“We have members who are two-thirds of the way [done] on a project that we have to shut down,” says Lewis Dubuque, executive vice president of the New York State Builders Association. “If this goes on for an extended period of time, many of these construction companies will go out of business.

“That will exacerbate the housing crisis that we’re having right now,” he says.

And it could lead to big problems in the future, if recent history is to serve as a guide.

After the housing crash in the mid-2000s, there were suddenly many more newly built homes than buyers. Without demand, building seemingly stopped overnight. Construction companies went out of business, laying off scores of workers. Many of those businesses and workers never returned to the industry. So when the economy bounced back, and there were buyers again, the construction industry couldn’t ramp up the production of new homes fast enough.

One of the main obstacles is the shortage of construction workers and skilled tradespeople.

“Getting quality people to come to work has been really difficult,” says Dubuque. The industry has invested in creating a pipeline of new workers by creating trade and other construction-related programs in high schools, community colleges, and four-year universities. But if these folks can’t find jobs after they graduate, “all of that work is just going to go up in smoke.”

In Michigan, where putting up new homes has not been deemed essential during the pandemic, “it’s ground new residential construction to a halt,” says Michael Stoskopf, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Southeast Michigan, which encompasses the Detroit metropolitan area.

He’s worried that it will be harder to ramp construction back up again once the restrictions are lifted and the nation attempts to settle into a new normal. Some builders are already laying off workers, while others are trying to hold on until they can get back to building again.

Dubuque, of the New York association, believes the pause in construction could make the affordable housing crunch even more dire.

“If there’s less people building homes and there’s less homes on the market, then the prices are just going to skyrocket,” says Dubuque.

Builders in other parts of the country are starting to feel the strain

Meanwhile, other areas are just beginning to feel the impact of the pandemic.

In Wichita, KS, builders are still allowed to erect new homes.

“We’re just carrying on with the projects we have on hand,” says Tim Shigley, who owns a custom homebuilding and remodeling business in Wichita. They put up about three new homes and do about seven home remodels a year. But he expects business could slow in the months ahead.

“My expectation is to see demand drop off a little,” he says.

He doesn’t expect Wichita to be hurt as much as the bigger cities on the coasts, such as New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco, where there are many more COVID-19 cases. And he believes the under-building in his market will help to protect the local industry. In 2006, builders completed 2,600 single-family homes. Last year, they finished only around 1,400. That lack of supply coupled with high demand could give local builders some cover.

“We just need to get through this event,” says Shigley. “This is more of a temporary issue than a long-term [one].”

And it’s not all doom and gloom for new home construction—at least not yet.

Buyers who’ve gone under contract for a new home aren’t canceling those deals, says Jay McKenzie, a spokesman for BDX, a national builders group.

“We are seeing closings proceed, in some cases virtually or remotely,” McKenzie says.

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It’s Time for Home Buyers to Drive a Hard Bargain


Times of volatility create opportunities for investment—it’s true of the stock market and it’s also true of real estate right now.

Rarely was there such a sudden and universal jolt to housing markets in the U.S. as there was last month. In a matter of days, school systems closed, restaurants shuttered and a wave of stay-at-home orders extended from coastal states inward, as lawmakers raced to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Real estate agents called off open houses, sellers yanked listings from the marketplace and many buyers, even in some of the hottest housing markets, such as San Francisco Bay Area, put their house hunts on hold.

Recent directives from U.S. Homeland Security and some states like California clarifying that real estate, like garbage disposal and mail, is an “essential business” during the crisis has shown little sign of spurring agents, and, more importantly, their clients, to risk exposure to the disease.

Many people are playing it safe and staying home in the majority of states, either out of an abundance of caution or in response to local mandates that threaten violators with fines or, in some cases, license revocation despite the federal rule. On top of that, a total decimation of U.S. stocks, which closed the worst first quarter in history this week, have wiped out billions from people’s wealth.

Such uncertainty makes it hard to imagine an upside, but there very well could be for both opportunistic investors and end users looking for a home. Both types of buyer can—with a little savvy and “steady hands,” as one agent put it—use this sudden lull in activity to their advantage by securing a discount and seizing a moment of fewer, if any, competing bids.

Finding an investment opportunity

“Clearly some people are anxious to do business and so you’re going to get more flexibility in terms of price and in terms of people not hanging onto that last dollar,” said Alicia Cervera, managing partner of Miami-based Cervera Real Estate.

Recent deals show some sellers are in need of liquidity and willing to negotiate.

In New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. with more than 45,000 confirmed cases and where people are under strict orders to stay home, only two luxury home sellers managed to strike deals last week. And they had an average listing discount of 33%, according to the latest market report from Olshan Realty, which compiles weekly contracts signed for homes over $4 million.

One was a renovated five-bedroom, two-story condo in Manhattan’s trendy Chelsea neighborhood, asking $11.25 million. The other was a four-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side, asking $5.25 million, which the out-of-town buyer planned to use as a rental investment, according to the report.

Across the country, inventory has plummeted as sellers yank or put off their listings in order to wait out the crisis. In Manhattan, for example, only 63 new listings came to market during the fourth week of March (the first full week under stay-at-home orders) compared to 411 during the same period last year, according to data from real estate data firm UrbanDigs.

Anecdotal evidence suggests opportunistic buyers are already circling remaining inventory hunting for deals, said Noah Rosenblatt, founder of UrbanDigs, in a weekly report.

“The question then becomes, which sellers are willing, or unwilling but forced, to hit that bid,” he said, adding that so far, he’s heard sellers are largely biding their time rather than accept low offers.

Joel Moss, a broker at Warburg Realty in New York, recieved one such offer for 33% below the asking price on a one-bedroom in Murray Hill that she represents. The prospective buyer justified the bid as what one might have paid in 2012, at the depths of the last housing crash.

“Of course the owner said no. In fact, she found it a little predatory,” Ms. Moss said.

So in these times, how does a buyer go in with an offer that won’t alienate?

Ms. Moss said having a frank conversation with the listing agent about how motivated the seller is would be a start. But also hiring a buyer’s agent who has their own network of connections can help steer an investor toward potential deals. One area where there’s been surprising softness in Manhattan, for example, is the West Village, where even coveted townhouses are competing with a deluge of new development not far away.

“Sellers there have already adjusted their thinking on price,” Ms. Moss said.

“Everyone would love to get an offer,” she added. “But it needs to be reasonable and it depends on the price point.”

Red-hot markets starting to cool

Big discounts are only one part of the equation, however. The incredible slowdown in activity has taken the heat off of some of the most competitive markets in the country, giving an opening to buyers who only two months ago would have faced off against half a dozen other interested parties.

One such market is California’s Silicon Valley, where a typical starter home trades for $2 million to $3 million and often above asking price, said Kalena Masching, a Bay Area agent with Redfin.

“In February, it was ramping up to be a really busy spring season,” she said, reminiscent of the robust years of 2017-2018, when homes were selling for as much as 10% over asking. But shelter-in-place orders implemented across California in mid-March and a wipe-out in stocks, which first-time buyers in the Bay Area tend to draw upon for their down payments, grounded deals to a halt.

Now, homes are selling with discounts of $50,000 or more off their asking price, she said.

“There’s a great opportunity for investors,” Ms. Masching said, “especially for someone who’s ultimately going to tear something down.”

In that case, an investor has little need to see the property in person, she said.

Mary Lou Wertz, co-founder of Maison Real Estate, in Charleston, South Carolina, said the climate of uncertainty has brought negotiating to another level. Buyers are even asking for price concessions at the closing table, she said.

“I’ve never seen it before,” Ms. Wertz said, and sellers are acquiescing because otherwise the buyer is “going to walk away.”

Besides the hard-driving investor, however, multiple agents said the softened market provides an opportunity for people to take the plunge on the move they’ve been dreaming of but putting off.

In Florida, for example, Ms. Cervera said she’s seeing the same sense of urgency from New Yorkers, and other buyers from the tristate area, that she saw in the aftermath of 9/11.

“People are saying this has been my plan,” she said. “They are getting off the sidelines and wanting to fulfill those dreams.”

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