Virtual Power Lunch: The ups and down of the economy and health

By Mike Sunnucks | Rose Law Group Reporter

Home sales are up. Restaurants are challenged. And hospitals and health care workers are stressed.

Those are some of the dynamics and landscape as Arizona and metro Phoenix grapple with COVID-19, the rise in cases and all its ramifications.

Those were also the centerpieces of Rose Law Group’s New Economy (Virtual) Power Lunch series on Friday.

On the positive front, Jim Belfiore, president of Belfiore Real Estate Consulting, noted the strong recovery of new home sales after the reopening of the Arizona economy in mid-May after the initial COVID closures.

“It really started to come up in May and into early June,” Belfiore said.

Home sales for the last 30 days are up 28 percent compared to a year ago, Belfiore said.

He said demand is up across price points and submarkets in the region.

“It’s a positive situation for the housing industry,” Belfiore said during the Rose Law Group virtual forum.

Belfiore said historically low mortgage interest rates are driving home sales though the Phoenix market faces a supply crunch. Belfiore said new homes supply is at its lowest levels since 2005. “We are starting to see a supply crunch,” Belfiore said.

Chris Grogan, a partner with real estate investment firm El Dorado Holdings Inc, said he is seeing home builders take two different approaches to buying during the year of COVID-19.

Grogan said some builders are forging ahead with land purchases while are holding off on such moves as they survey the economic landscape and outlook.

Grogan said businesses and public at large need more clarity and certainty on how to respond to COVID. “One thing that works one day doesn’t the next,” Grogan said.

Arizona has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases with 116,892 total cases and 2,082 deaths. Eighty nine percent of intensive care unit (ICU) beds are in use statewide. Arizona has the 16th most COVID deaths among U.S. states and Maricopa County has the third most COVID cases in the country among counties (73,165), according to Johns Hopkins University.

The rise in cases concern for Dr. Sonal Haerter, an internal medicine physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

“From where I am, Arizona is not looking good,” Haerter told the Rose Law Group virtual forum.

She said more widespread social distancing and wearing of masks could have helped and will help curtail the spread of COVID.

She is also concerned about all the health stresses, lost jobs and economic strains magnifying mental health challenges. “I think this is a big chaotic situation,” she said.

The situation for restaurants is also challenging with new social distancing order from Gov. Doug Ducey and some consumers still hesitant to venture out much.

Award-winning, celebrity chef Mark Tarbell (who owns Tarbell’s restaurant in Scottsdale) said he opted to go back to take out and pickup service only. “We reverted back to it,” Tarbell said.

He said part of the decision to do only takeout and pickup order was based in protecting employees from COVID as well as the usual slowdown in summer business.

“It’s summer. It seems like a very responsible thing to do,” he said.

Tarbell said the restaurants will also be significantly impacted on when and how schools go back in session. He said schools reopening will bring families (and customers) back to the Valley if they have opted to escape the summer heat to cooler environs. If schools stay close some customers (especially affluent ones) will not come back as soon.

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July 2020