It is a challenging time we are experiencing – personally and professionally. Within the last month, the COVID-19 virus has become a global top-of-mind subject. It is one that we are and need to take seriously, and doing so is affecting our day-to-day lives in every aspect. The markets are fluctuating in response to the uncertainty and everyone – in any business, including real estate – is experiencing a new normal.
On March 16, President Trump announced we could be dealing with the virus into July and August. In response to the ever-changing data, the government has issued a Level 3 travel ban to and from Europe, the UK and Ireland for the next 30 days. Level 3 bans for South Korea, Iran and China are still in place. On March 17, Governor McMaster instituted mandatory restaurants and bar closings. All state schools are closed and groups of 50 or more are prohibited.
President Trump’s 15-day guideline announced March 16, 2020 recommends avoiding groups of more than 10 people.
The real estate industry – one of the major contributors to a healthy economic outlook – is employing techniques to keep this sector of our nation as healthy as it can be during these uncertain times.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR)
The NAR issued information on March 16, 2020, “Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTORS” to inform Realtors about how to navigate through the changes and what to expect. In addition to what all of us have been asked to do from medical experts and scientists from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – frequent hand washing, avoiding face touching, social distancing of six feet, avoiding close contact with anyone who is sick and routinely disinfecting working environments – the NAR put together a list of parameters for Realtors. Below is a summary.
• Ask clients about their travels to areas in which the virus has been widespread. You can opt to reschedule or refuse a face-to-face meeting if a client has traveled to “high-risk” areas.
• You can refuse to drive clients to showings in your vehicle and instead, meet them at your listing.
• Adjust open houses if necessary. Offer clients a virtual video tour in lieu of a traditional showing. The NAR suggests if you do hold an open house, ask all visitors to disinfect their hands upon entering and leaving. Recommend clients disinfect high-touch surfaces after open houses.
• Implement a stay at home policy for any staff that can perform their responsibilities remotely. Instruct any member of your staff to stay at home if she or he shows any sign of sickness. Take extra measures to clean and disinfect offices routinely.
• Avoid groups of 10 or more in keeping with the latest information from the U.S. government. Hold virtual meetings or showings and postpone any group events to a later date.
The NAR emphasizes that if you do adapt a new normal for your business and ask clients screening questions, you do so with each and every client, according to fair housing practices.
“The NAR continues to vigilantly monitor the situation,” said NAR President Vince Malta. “Let’s please stay in touch with each other and offer each other the necessary support, we’re a team. . .”
Malta added that the NAR is dedicated to helping realtors process what’s happening and how it’s affecting the industry in both the short term and long term.
In a recent article from Business Insider, the need to show homes virtually is becoming more and more necessary, especially in areas such as Seattle. Redfin added a tool to its app that allows customers to tour homes with realtors through video chat. The trend for buying homes and making home buying decisions via video chats, Face Time and video tours isn’t new. An article from NAR in July 2018 reported that “20 percent of buyers said they submitted an offer on a home without visiting it first. . .”
Realtors in high-demand markets are accustomed to showing potential buyers a home virtually and selling homes to clients this way. For many, this practice is something they’ve been doing already.
Virtual showings may become even more commonplace for the industry as the situation develops.
“The situation is very fluid,” said Will Jenkinson of Carolina One Real Estate. “Things are changing rapidly and as of now, the effects have been minimum. “
Jenkinson, referring to local real estate, added: “I do expect that to change in the future. Everyone’s lives are being disrupted and that will have an affect on any type of purchase, big or small.”
Jenkinson said he and and Carolina One are cancelling any type of event that would draw a crowd. “That includes training classes, grand openings, community events and company and office meetings. We are trying to be smart and follow the guidelines from people who are experts in this field.”
As we all learn to move through this uncertain territory we find ourselves in – implementing the directives that experts are suggesting and learning from what happens if we do not, is how we all get through this.
Doing so, will eventually get us all back on track and more importantly, help us better understand that we’re all in this together.
For more detailed information about the NAR guidelines that are updated regularly, visit https://www.nar.realtor/coronavirus-a-guide-for-realtors.
For updated information about South Carolina visit South Carolina Department of Health website at https://www.scdhec.gov.
To view OSHA’s guidelines for “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” visit https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf.