Major societal or financial events usually seem to affect the real estate industry. The recession of 2008, for example, changed the real estate landscape even when it came to homes not directly involved in what became known as the “foreclosure crisis.” While Homes for sale in Leicester Ma plummeted, our office was able to successfully navigate the industry downturn because of our diversification in property management and real estate rentals.
At times of illness outbreaks, the industry will always slow a little, too. When people are sick or are staying away from those who might be, homebuyer traffic tends to slow down. That, in turn, might persuade would-be sellers to wait until more buyers are in the market before putting a home up for sale. There can be a ripple effect.
Results-wise, it’s difficult to predict an ultimate outcome for the entire industry. But here are some things, at least process-wise, a health crisis means for homebuyers and home sellers.
When people are encouraged not to assemble in one place, it’s reasonable to expect that open houses will change. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) does provide guidance to its members during times of illness outbreak. That guidance involves talking to home sellers about the pros and cons of holding an open house and about exploring alternative marketing solutions for sellers. An example might be a virtual tour versus an open house.
The NAR also suggests providing hand sanitizer at the door as well as adequate soap and water in all bathrooms if you do hold an open house during a pandemic. In some cases the NAR will suggest that bathroom use be restricted completely. It is important that your realtor is apprised of any updates from local government and the NAR. If you’re a potential home seller considering holding open houses, your listing agent will likely require you to follow some instructions for cleaning and sanitizing thoroughly before and after open hours or even individual showings.
It’s also probably smart to follow common sense during any outbreak. Handshakes and sign-in sheets where everybody uses the same pen, typical practices at open houses, should be omitted during an illness outbreak.
Real estate agents are bound by a number of laws and regulations, including the Fair Housing Act. They cannot, for example, discriminate against an ethnic group because of where an illness might have originated or where hotbeds for it now are located.
However, agents are permitted to ask clients if they’ve recently traveled, particularly about travel to places identified as having a high risk of illness. In compliance with the law, if the agent asks one client about travel, they must ask all clients about travel.
Similarly, many buyer agents drive clients to showings. With social distancing in mind, this is a practice they might no longer feel comfortable doing. As with travel communications, the agent must stop driving all homebuyers if they decline to drive one.
Use of Technology
For all those who lament that the real estate industry isn’t as personal as it once was, in times of pandemic, it can be fortunate that the business has shifted toward technology.
Homebuyers are able to quickly access many properties online before ever stepping foot out of the house. Online listings often include dozens of pictures and even videos. A lot of the home buying process is done before anyone ever secures the services of an agent. I for one love virtual real estate tours that are comprehensive and include the use of drone photography. The use of drone footage gives homebuyers a unique perspective that cannot be understated. Tours should always include room descriptions otherwise the experience can be confusing to a homebuyer.
But technology goes beyond listings. Group chats can replace face-to-face meetings. Online document sharing and signing capabilities, too, make personal contact less necessary. Virtual meetings among real estate office staff can also cut down on face-to-face interaction in the industry, and there are online mortgage applications.
Extreme health emergencies have an effect on many industries, and real estate is just one of them. There’s never a way to fully predict how any major world event or potential economic crisis will ultimately affect buying or selling a home. But if all involved cooperate and follow recommendations made to the general public, everybody could be better off.