As the coronavirus pandemic continues to create an uncertain economy, local real estate companies are still seeing just as many clients—but virtually.
“We’ve adapted, but it’s been a big change,” said Liz Moore, president of Liz Moore and Associates. “But it’s cool to watch the real estate community come together because everyone understands we have to be careful.”
At Liz Moore and Associates, Moore said agents are moving many services online, such as virtual open houses, and taking precautions during any interaction that has to happen in person.
When the pandemic hit, she said a lot of clients were already under contract so the business had to find ways to safely finalize the closings. First they started by doing them in parking lots with masks and gloves, but now the company places clients and employees in separate rooms and connects them through video conferencing.
In addition, the company’s Matterport camera, which creates 3D videos, is becoming essential to providing as close of an experience as possible.
John Wilson, principal broker and owner of Coldwell Banker Traditions, said his company has also been taking extra precautions while operating. Wilson said the company had already been operating online in order to engage clients in multiple ways.
Now they’ve had to step up that work.
“One of the most important things we find for us is engagement,” he said. “So that virtual engagement has been important to show them we’re safe and they’re safe.”
The company also has clients sign a letter of engagement, which states they are not a high risk of spreading the virus. This way if a client has been exposed or is determined to be high risk, then the company knows all engagement should happen virtually.
But even with all of those new ways of connecting, local real estate companies are seeing their businesses change financially.
On a national scale, the real estate business has stayed fairly stable despite the changing economy, according to the National Association of Realtors. A survey done by the association showed that approximately 74 percent of Realtors reported their clients aren’t reducing listing prices to attract buyers. This data suggests that sellers are remaining calm and continuing forward despite the pandemic.
But Moore said there are still plenty of sellers in the area who are uncomfortable selling their homes during the health crisis, either due to financial stability or because they don’t want strangers coming into their home who could put them at risk of infection.
“So one thing we ask sellers is, ‘Do you need to move right now?’” Moore said. “Because if not, then it might be a good idea to wait.”
Moore said the number of sales have gone down about 20 percent in April compared to this time last year. But this decrease came after the businesses hit a record high, up 60 percent, in March. So with those numbers, Moore said she expects the trend to continue as long as the stay-at-home order lasts but the market could bounce back fairly quickly.
Even before the pandemic hit, there was high demand for homes but a shortage of inventory, Wilson said. Wilson said he believes there will be a bounce in demand for housing once the pandemic ends.
There could also be a growth in sales. Wilson said as people are stuck indoors, they’re learning about the limitations of their home and finding time to work on projects that make it more likely to sell.
Wilson also said the area could see an influx of buyers as more people retreat to rural environments.
“We are a rural market, but there has been very much a demand for urban properties since 2008,” he said. “In the last couple years, that’s been transitioning and now people in these urban areas have suffered so badly during this time, that I think there could be a real demand for rural properties.”
But as the stay-at-home order continues, there’s no prediction for how this will impact the housing market in the area.
“It’s a strong market,” Wilson said. “And [companies] have been very effective in working safely and virtually to meet buyer and seller needs at this time.”