MReport April 2020

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20 | M R EP O RT FEATURE electronically, but one of the biggest issues they are facing is mail. "Who is processing mail?" Gilbert quipped, adding that they still have many clients that receive hard mail and sections of her work cannot be done electronically. "Hopefully the post office doesn't close," she said with a laugh. Jason Allnutt, CEO, Auction. com said the company's first priority is "contributing to the nation's effort to slow the spread of the virus." He also noted that employees are working remotely and focusing on the needs of buyers and sellers. "Additionally, we are fast track- ing investment in the roll out of our national remote bidding tool, allowing our buyers the ability to buy from the comfort of their homes for both online REO and live Foreclosure Sales," Allnut said. "Our industry has an amazing history of rising to the challenges posed by regional and national emergencies. I have no doubt together we will rise to the chal- lenges posed by the current crises." Is America an Investor's Safe Haven? A nother uncertainty surround- ing COVID-19 is a timeframe around any recovery, as nothing can be projected unless a vaccine is developed, Shapiro noted. "As of now they still anticipate months … If we judge by the first couple of months of the magni- tude and the response around the world we are probably looking at years before it will stabilize," Shapiro said. "You have two battles going on, one is the actual lock- down and physical loss of business and two is the public image battle. This is hurting the China brand in so many ways and will probably for a very long time." However, one thing he is certain of is that the coronavirus could lead to more investment from Chinese buyers in the American real estate market. Shapiro said Chinese investors have a lot of relationships within communities that draw investments near vari- ous "Chinatowns" in core cities. "There is a bit of a herd mentality that is mostly based on referrals and confidence within the community, so you have concentrations in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but also markets like Vancouver, British Columbia," he said. The possible growth of Chinese investors into a housing market that is already starving for inventory may not be ideal. The National Association of Realtors recently reported that total hous- ing inventory, while up 2.2% in January 2020 from December 2019 to 1.42 million units, is at its lowest inventory level since 1999. Shapiro, however, said "we only benefit" from an influx of Chinese investors. Hale said Chinese buyers rep- resent the largest share of foreign buyers of U.S. residential real estate. She also said they've faced headwinds in recent years from capital controls in addition to rising home prices. "The epidemic is likely to hamper their ability to participate in U.S. real estate in the short-run, but it may lead to more interest in the long-run as buyers may seek to be more internationally diversi- fied," Hale said. Hale, now speaking on American homeowners, said a house is generally the largest source of net worth for people, which helps homeowners rest easier when investments are fluc- tuating wildly. "Making sure you have enough of a cash or near-cash emergency fund is a good practice and will help ensure you can make your mortgage and other payments even in the event of a disruption to income," she said. Shapiro said concerns over home prices go back to supply and demand, but warned that growing home values could continue. "With an influx of new buyers seeking flight to safety in the U.S., products will move quicker and will drive prices potentially higher, or at the very least, absorb any access that might be putting pressure on prices," he said. Chris Marlin, President of Lennar International, told CNBC in an interview in June 2019 that foreign buyers are looking to the U.S. residential real estate market for long-term, stable investments. Marlin said the consumer behavior from Japanese buyers is showing a trend of moving away from yield and focused more on stability and self-use. . A graduate of the University of Alabama, MIKE ALBANESE has worked for news publica- tions since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, and sports and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the Pilot Point Post-Signal and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the Dallas Morning News and the Denton Record- Chronicle over the past several years. COVER STORY SPECIAL REPORT: COVID-19 "During these uncertain times, with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, our primary focus is on protecting our people, our communities, our company and our customers." —Kevin Brungardt, CEO, RoundPoint Mortgage Corporation

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