The coronavirus pandemic has hit the real estate market, like it has most other businesses.
People are concerned about the economy — and their jobs.
Open houses have been canceled over concerns about spreading the virus.
But local Realtors say they’re being creative and still selling houses.
“It’s going good, but obviously not as good as it was a month ago,” Tyler Shookman, the Greater Owensboro Realtor Association’s Realtor of the Year in 2019, said Wednesday.
“We’ve had to get creative,” he said. “I’m dealing with people who have already sold their homes in South Carolina and Michigan and are moving to Owensboro. They have to move soon.”
Shookman said, “We’re doing a lot of virtual 3D tours of houses. With this technology, you can walk through a house, go out onto the patio and into the backyard and even get a 360-degree view without actually being there.”
Karen Gross, president of the association, said, “I think the March (sales) numbers will still be very good because of sales early in the month. And April doesn’t look that bad. I’m not sure what the April volume will be, but it will be down.”
She said, “We’re having to be creative. We’re doing Skype tours of homes before the client goes into them. That eliminates the ‘tire kickers’ from going into the homes. We can now do e-signatures on loans. Closings are being done on FaceTime. Instead of open houses, we’re doing live virtual home tours.”
“Tire kickers” are those who aren’t planning to buy a house in the near future and just like to look.
Lauren Lee, 2020 Realtor of the Year, said, “We’re doing virtual tours using Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or whatever the client prefers. It’s so easy to text and talk on the phone, but I like to meet with people face to face. And this (video conferencing) allows us to have some semblance of normalcy in a not-so-normal world.”
Jason Bellamy, president-elect of the association, said, “It can be as easy as FaceTime from our phones. But sometimes, folks just need to see a house in person.”
When that happens, he said, everybody wears masks and gloves and takes off their shoes.
“I’m the only one who touches things in the houses,” Bellamy said, “and we when leave, I disinfect everything I touch.”
Shookman said, “Some of the tools we’re using now will definitely continue to be used in the future. I listed a house yesterday without stepping in it. The owner took me on a room-to-room video tour. I made suggestions about what they needed to do in each room.”
He said, “When we do a physical showing of a home, all doors are left open and all the lights are on, so the people looking at the house don’t touch anything. They leave their shoes outside. When it’s over, we disinfect the house.”
Lee said, “People are still looking at houses. Low interest rates are helping with sales.”
She said, “There are always new people entering the housing market. Virtual tours let clients view a house from the comfort and safety of their homes. That’s helping.”
Lee said, “I don’t think we’ve seen the downside of the market yet. But if this drags on to June or July, we will.”
Houses priced under $160,000 are still selling quickly, she said.
Shookman said, “The second quarter will probably be a record low. But we expect the third quarter to be one of the biggest we’ve had. We hope we’re in the valley of a V recovery and not in a prolonged U.”
A V recovery means the economy bounces back quickly from a recession.
A U recovery takes longer.
“Demand is still there,” Shookman said. “We’ve seen record sales in recent months. But Realtors are used to highs and lows.”
Bellamy said, “I’m remaining positive. I think there’s a good possibility that sales are just being delayed now. I think we’ll get back to normal as soon as the government says it’s safe.”
Gross said some potential buyers might not qualify for loans right now because of the uncertainty companies — and workers — are facing with the possibility of businesses being closed for extensive periods.
“But there will always be people who have to sell and people who have to buy,” she said.
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 firstname.lastname@example.org