Key Highlights:

  • Brokers, agents, buyers and sellers struggling to do business as usual when business is not usual
  • Open houses cancelled or circumscribed
  • People fleeing to second homes or short-term rentals in suburbs

Nothing about the coronavirus is “usual.” How COVID-19 is affecting real estate business is completely unchartered territory and, because the virus is spreading so rapidly, how it affects and will continue to affect real estate business will change.

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Here is where we are right now:

Open Houses

During the week of 3/15, the National Association of REALTORS ® (NAR) learned that 25% of sellers nationwide were in the midst of or had already changed their terms of engagement with buyers. Some of these changes included…

  • hand washing stations
  • leaving shoes at the door and putting on booties
  • no touching kitchen and bathroom fixtures and countertops
  • some buildings were limiting open houses to “two per allotted time slots”
  • some buildings were requiring government-issued identification cards

Usually there are some 5,500 – 6,000 weekend open houses in New York City but during the week of 3/15, there were only 3,900 scheduled and many of those scheduled open houses were canceled.

Brokers are becoming videographers (to film video home tours), home cleaners (to clean all surfaces, door knobs, light switches, etc. upon clients entering and exiting houses), public health screeners (to ask potential buyers whether or not they have been traveling, have respiratory or temperature symptoms) and essentially security personnel insisting that children and older adults (65 years and up) not participate in open houses.

All of the above, of course, assumes that brokers, agents and sellers have not canceled real-time open houses. Redfin, Compass, Keller Williams, and others have canceled all real-time open houses while offering only video home touring.

Obviously, brokers and agents are doing fewer showings and more “tellings” about the properties. Buildings with amenities such as gyms, children’s playrooms, pools, etc. have closed them altogether meaning that those amenities must be told and not seen.

People Scrambling to Suburbs

Owners of second homes outside of cities are fleeing to them. Those without second homes are flocking to short-term rentals outside of sides in hopes of escaping to suburbs with fewer people, fewer multi-family buildings and less claustrophobic inside and outside spaces.

Short-term leases are few and far between so some clients are signing long-term and/or yearlong leases hoping/expecting not to have to use that rental over the term of the lease.

And, because beggars can’t be choosers regardless of their financial means, many of these hope-to-be renters are much less picky than they would have been during “normal” times.

We’ll see how it all goes and report future adaptations down the road.


Thanks to New York Times’ Joanna Kaufman.

Also read: Podcast: Tim & Julie Harris Sunday Special | Pandemic Is Here, Now What?, Podcast: Real Estate Market Crash Here? What You Must Do NOW!, Podcast: CoronaVirus, Will The Housing Markets Crash?


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