Real estate uncertainty

Questions linger over the future of the local housing market.

An underground market may emerge in real estate if the economic shutdown continues past April 7, says a real estate agent who laments such a market.

Chuck Gillooley said the battle against the coronavirus ground the industry to a halt — and that because real estate is not considered an essential industry — face-to-face sales ended.

The agent for Compass Real Estate in San Carlos said most Realtors are complying.

“They know they can’t have an open house,” he said.

But an extended shutdown could lead to some agents quietly engaging in an underground market to promote properties, Gillooley said of the action he calls a bad practice.

Fewer buyers and a frozen inventory — because of the economic shutdown — normally mean lower prices, he also said.

“I don’t think we see it yet,” Gillooley said.

Home sales could be affected by the economic shutdown due to COVID-19 because tech company stocks help drive real estate buys, he said.

Banks no longer preapprove some buyers, Gillooley said.

Gina Zari, director of governmental affairs for the San Mateo County Association of Realtors, said she hasn’t seen a drop in home prices.

“We have such a demand,” Zari said.

Moreover, Silicon Valley is working remotely during the shutdown in a way other regions cannot, she said.

Technology may also help avert an underground market in real estate, she said, citing such work by tech-savvy agents as online, virtual tours of properties.

“I don’t think it would be as bad as it would have been 10 to 20 years go,” said Zari.

Gillooley spoke about developments in San Carlos that opened before the coronavirus crisis and the success of such projects.

“Wheeler Plaza has done really well,” the real estate agent said. “There seemed to be a lot of interest as soon as it was approved.”

The downtown location appeals to buyers, said Gillooley.

That rule in real estate about the importance of location also helped spur the building boom in San Carlos, he said.

A lot of couples split the commute, with one partner traveling to San Francisco and the other to San Jose, Gillooley said. San Carlos is halfway between both cities.

The suburban community was for a long time little known, the real estate agent noted.

People once asked whether San Carlos was close to the Contra Costa County community of San Ramon, he said.

“It’s no longer a secret,” Gillooley said of San Carlos.

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