Real Estate’s Response to Stay-at-Home Orders

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Residential and commercial real estate brokers share the many changes and challenges to their businesses since the pandemic began.

How are you conducting your business? 

Desiree Goldman I am completing the transactions in process but have stopped all new business. I believe flattening the curve takes precedent to business at this time. My mantra is, “I can dig out of debt. I cannot dig out of the grave.”

Lori Golden Virtual tours as first policy …

Seth Jernigan While our office remains closed to the public, we are fully operational and continue to meet the needs of our owners and residents on the property management side of our business. Our office staff comes into the office only occasionally to perform essential/critical functions that cannot be performed at home. Tenants can pay rent online and make online service requests. Our maintenance teams continue to perform emergency service work, but with added precautions. Fortunately, our web-based phone and property management systems allow us to be functional with minimal time in the office. 

On the sales and leasing side of our business, we continue to aggressively market our listings online and to search online for clients who are looking for property. We conduct business over the phone. We are getting our team together via Zoom calls and hosting calls with clients as needed.

Sam DiFranco All brokerage business is being conducted remotely without any personnel layoffs. The office is being used only by essential personnel. While our Raleigh office may be closed to the public, we are fully operational and continue to service all our client needs.

How can you continue to serve your clients? 

DG I have always maintained great communication with my clients and make myself available by phone, text, email. FaceTime and Skype are also options. 

SJ We can consult with anyone who is thinking of listing a property for sale or lease. We can provide opinions of market value, market lease rates and information on available property. If enough information is available (i.e. pictures and floor plans), we can begin marketing a property without violating any stay-at-home orders. While COVID-19 has affected our ability to visit people and properties in person, it has not affected our deep local market knowledge and the online research tools available to us. 

The maintenance aspect of property management has been deemed an essential function, so we continue to be responsive to certain maintenance requests, but with added precautions. 

SD Our software, technology and connectivity has always been set up so that we can service clients remotely if needed, and now we are having to rely on that at the rule instead of the exception. Whether by conference call, Zoom conference or otherwise, we have tried to maintain a business as usual mentality so as not to take any steps backward, and to provide seamless service during these most trying times.

Is anyone listing their houses/commercial spaces? 

DG I have listings waiting for the lifting of shelter in place. I believe the housing market will be strong from pent up demand once this allows for more normal market conditions.

LG Yes, clients are still listing homes and properties.

Patrick Serkedakis Sellers are reluctant to list, particularly if they still occupy the house, concerned that buyers or agents might introduce coronavirus into their home. 

SJ Activity has slowed with new listings, but there is still some activity. 

William Allen Yes, we continue to list, lease and sell commercial space. The market has not shut down, we’ve just had to adapt to a new way of doing business. Each and every client is different, each with different motivating factors and needs, and the flow of money and deals should not be expected to, nor will it, dry up. The Triangle is an extremely well-positioned place in which to do business, so we have continued to stay busy and to transact deals, and we are weathering this storm as good as can be expected.

Are you hosting virtual tours? Are people buying based on virtual tours?

DG Not at this time. They work, but then you open up the exposure to people for inspections, appraisals, visiting the home. I can wait.

LG We are doing virtual tours, but most buyers still want to see the house prior to making an offer.

SJ We have in the past posted video tours of properties, and we will continue to do this when appropriate and helpful. I can’t say that I recall anyone buying a property based on a virtual tour.  

WA Yes, when necessary and when requested, we are providing virtual tours. Most of our marketing materials and websites are already set up with sufficient detail so as to provide the needed information without us having to reinvent the wheel.

How has the stay-at-home order for your county impacted your business specifically?

LG Not in a huge way here in Chatham, but it is coming, for sure.

PS As an individual agent, I have seen my new business drop precipitously. 

SJ On the property management side of our business, the impacts have been more direct and immediate. The stay-at-home orders, and related business closures, have made it difficult for many tenants to continue paying rent, which equates to a loss of related management fees. 

On the sales/leasing side of our business, we have had more than a few pending deals fall apart as a direct result of COVID-19 and related stay-at-home orders. In some cases, the prospective buyer or tenant’s loss of income caused them to terminate the deal. In general, activity is slower, as many businesses are not focused on new real estate transactions. On the other hand, some deals have continued to move forward, and there are certain businesses that are proceeding with pending deals, and some who continue to pursue new opportunities.

SD Broker interaction, or peer-to-peer meetings, has all but ceased. In person conversations and meetings, which are part of the lifeblood or our business, have ceased. Real estate is a personal business, and without face-to-face interaction, it becomes very challenging.

Are there other ways you are adapting your routines to comply with safety standards? 

DG When I get back to showings, gloves, booties [and] antiseptic wipes are now requirements everywhere.

LG We are wearing gloves, booties and soon masks.

PS The Orange Chatham Association of Realtors (OCHAR) just recently emailed to its members and posted on its Facebook page guidelines for conducting business. 

SJ We have had to adapt to continue providing client service while observing the laws and safety recommendations. One example are Zoom video calls. This is not something most of us had used before. We continue to have our regular sales meetings via Zoom, and it has allowed us to remain in touch, discuss market news and primarily to share how we are spending our time to be as productive as possible from home.

Do you find you are getting many out-of-state clients looking to buy right now?

LG Yes, out-of-state buyers are still looking.

PS Out-of-state clients are reluctant to travel by air, particularly, but even by car citing concern for the cleanliness of hotels and not wanting to or being able to eat out as they travel.

SJ Some national tenants are still looking and are still moving deals forward. However, in general, inquiries from out-of-state tenants have slowed. 

WA Yes, from an institutional and private equity standpoint, the Triangle remains an extremely attractive place to invest and put money to work. Contrary to what many may think, these dips and lulls in the economy present tremendous buying opportunities for those looking to enter our market for the next uptick in the cycle. Many major players have money on the sideline waiting to invest, and this is an interesting entry point for them.

Anything else you’d like to add?

LG We appreciate everyone being patient and allowing us to learn as we go. We’d like to tell the public that, even though spring is normally the time we welcome “lookers” and people getting out to see what’s in the market, given what is currently going on, it would be best if only the true buyers who need to buy a home be out in the market shopping.

PS As president of OCHAR, I moderated a Zoom town hall meeting for our members, which was attended virtually by 85 members discussing how they were using technology to conduct business. Most are limiting in-person contact and taking the time to build their pipeline of prospects and building competence through online classes.

SJ Fortunately, with 51 years of being in business, REA remains strong and fully functional. We are happy to be a resource for anyone who needs counsel or advice regarding commercial and investment real estate or property management during this challenging time. 


Guidelines by County

You must follow the order of the area you are working in.

Durham

Only the following real estate services are authorized in connection with closing sales:

Pre-sales and pre-rental activities:

Open houses and in-person showings of occupied homes are prohibited. In-person showings of vacant homes for sale or rent are permitted under the following conditions:

  • The buyer’s agent cannot enter the home with the prospective buyer(s); however, the agent can talk to the buyer during the showing from outside the home using cell phones and a video service.
  • Only one person can enter a home at a time for a showing. However, two people can enter if they’ve been socially distancing together.
  • Anyone entering a home must wear a mask and gloves and must not touch surfaces inside the home to the greatest extent possible. Lights must be turned on and interior doors opened prior to entry. Hand sanitizer or sanitized wipes must be provided to anyone entering a home before and after entering a home; and
  • Anyone entering a home must assert that to the best of their knowledge, they are not currently ill with a cold or flu, do not have a fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath or exhibit other COVID-19 symptoms; and have not been in contact with a person with COVID-19, and will adhere to and follow all precautions required for entering the property at all times.
  • Additionally, “there can only be three showings of a home during any calendar day.” Listing agents may enter vacant or occupied properties to take photographs and videos to facilitate virtual tours. Buyers’ agents may enter vacant properties to take photographs and/or videos.

Post-sale activities (these activities may only be conducted by a single individual and are restricted to the following activities connected with closing sales):

  • Onsite preview by prospective buyer where property is under contract sight unseen. Post-offer inspections (by both the buyer and a licensed home inspector, each occurring at different times); appraisal; surveys; final walk throughs; and title services.

Orange

Professional services, such as real estate services, are considered essential. While activities are continuing during the COVID-19 crisis, agents should take precautions to protect themselves and their clients and observe physical distancing requirements. bit.ly/OrangeGuidelines

Chatham 

Following the statewide stay-at-home order. For Orange Chatham Association of Realtors’ guidelines for conducting business, visit bit.ly/OCHARguidelines.

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