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Real Estate in the Age of COVID-19
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 @ 11:05 PM

How can you get past the doom and gloom of the business page and find out what’s really happening in the real estate market? Our boots-on-the-ground interviews offer plenty of good news and great advice.


When COVID-19 hit the US, there was very little time to ramp up real estate-related industries in order to facilitate current buying, selling, and rental processes. Overnight, as brokerages closed and quarantine orders went into effect, people found themselves conducting entirely virtual transactions and learning how to leverage technology to keep their clients happy.


We reached out to two major-market real estate brokers to get a sense of what they are seeing in their areas -- and how they have adjusted their businesses to the new realities. Their answers offer insight into the most important trends and tools that top producers are putting to work right now to keep the market moving.


Dave Nimick, The Nimick Team of Keller Williams Chicago - Lincoln Park


Chicago real estate broker Dave Nimick is a renowned number cruncher, providing individualized market updates for the many micro-markets and communities around the Chicago metro area. On his blog at Chicago Real Estate Minute, and in his sphere of influence market reports, he digs into local statistics and tracks the trends to give buyers and sellers a clear picture of Chicago real estate.


What are you experiencing in your market? Are things at a standstill, slower than usual, or more or less like normal?


The market before the pandemic was efficient, with a good amount of supply and also an ample amount of buyers - neither side having a clear advantage, but with well-priced properties selling quickly (sometimes with multiple offers), and overpriced ones sitting.



There are less active listings than normal and fewer buyers than normal as well, but that ratio of sellers and buyers has still remained fairly balanced, and properties priced accurately as selling quickly and overpriced ones are languishing. It's definitely not normal, but not as abnormal as expected given the circumstances.


What adjustments have you made to accommodate virtual showings, marketing, or closings?


Virtual showings have become pretty commonplace, where owner-occupied units are being shown via Zoom/etc - the listing agent, the buyer's agent and their buyer are there as well, and the seller is showing the home by way of their phone/tablet. I never thought I'd see it done this way, but it's happening. For second showings, the seller can decide if they want to allow the home to physically be shown (which most are willing to do), as a buyer is unlikely to go under contract on a home that they haven't physically been inside of.


Marketing has changed with virtual open houses happening when feasible, and videos being taken prior to going into the MLS in addition to standard photos. In the end, the same dynamics still decide whether a home will sell or not - and those are pricing, staging, and condition. Vacant homes are still able to be shown as normal for the most part, so that can make it a more standard scenario than others.


We are an "attorney state" in Illinois, and title companies have really seemed to adapt to make sure properties can close. Whenever possible, attorneys are the only ones attending closings and are signing for their clients (both buyers and sellers). Sometimes title companies will have "drive-by" closings where the buyers stay in their cars and are given the paperwork to sign with assistance given as needed through the car window, and documents taken to the title rep to process. While definitely a completely different and unexpected way to get transactions completed, closings in Chicago have pretty much happened as expected.


Are you making adjustments to the standard contract or using addenda in order to account for possible COVID-related delays?


There is a Covid-19 addendum that has been introduced and is being seen with many contracts in the Chicago area.


How do you stay informed about changes to policies and recommendations for real estate professionals in your area?


My office does a great job of keeping agents updated on changes. The local associations (we have many throughout the metro area) that I belong to have all seemed to be very communicative with agents about any changes occurring during this unprecedented and unpredictable time.


How have you implemented or improved online marketing platforms to communicate with buyers and sellers in your market?


Online marketing platforms are helpful, but communication with a client is only as good as the agent. My team and I tend to be very communicative with clients as a matter of general business (pandemic or not), and clients will always prefer to hear directly from their agent about what is personally affecting them - either via phone call, or custom email to sellers (i.e. a weekly market update).


Do you have thoughts on how rental agents or property managers can operate more effectively right now? Are you seeing movement in the rental market specifically?


Every person's health and safety is (and should be) the top priority. Theirs, like any job that includes regular close proximity to others, is very challenging at the moment. Agents working with rentals hopefully can do virtual showings much as other Realtors are doing. Property managers, though, are sometimes dealing with emergencies, thus making it all the more challenging.


What else would you like to share relevant to real estate in the age of COVID-19?


People still need to have a place to live, and some still need to buy and sell regardless of what is occurring in the world. COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected each and every one of us, but Realtors and those they serve have adapted to the challenges, and homes are continuing to sell. As horrible as this has been, I'm impressed with the fortitude that most everyone has shown in getting through this extremely challenging period.


Marcene Hedayati, Broker of record, part owner and Manager of William Raveis Legends Realty Group

Award-winning Westchester County, New York real estate broker Marcene Hedayati has built her career on her role as a consistent top producer who connects with other top producers throughout her market. Along with her partners, she has grown her business from the original five to more than seventy, including some of the best agents in her area. She recently served as President of Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and is active in a host of professional organizations.


What are you experiencing in your market? Are things at a standstill, slower than usual, or more or less like normal?


We have seen an uptick in inquiries from potential buyers/renters, in particular from NYC, who have shown a renewed interest in moving out of the city due to the pandemic. Initially, everything was at a standstill but as the pandemic has become more of a lasting reality, consumers are now wanting to make lifestyle changes.


In addition, some sellers are even more motivated now since some have lost their jobs, giving rise to a sense of urgency for both sellers and buyers.


What adjustments have you made to accommodate virtual showings, marketing, or closings?


In our industry, much of what we do is face to face, so the adjustment for the agent in particular has been noteworthy for most. Many agents who did not feel the need to master e-signature (digital) platforms are now having to learn how to get new clients to sign the necessary required NY State documents.



Those agents who were not comfortable with media platforms that enable virtual showings are finding that they are at a disadvantage, for sure. Social media platforms, virtual postcards and any on-line marketing has become even more important now. We have ramped up our virtual training schedule to try and get those agents caught up so they can remain connected to their contacts and remain relevant. We are conducting small virtual training sessions to address these issues.



Closings are not being attended as per NYSAR in accordance with the mandate. Fortunately, much of what we do is on the front end of the transaction so closings can proceed without us.


Are you making adjustments to the standard contract or using addenda in order to account for possible COVID-related delays?


None of our standard contracts have been changed, however we do now require all consumers to sign the NYSAR COVID-19 Disclosure form if they plan to visit a property. This notifies the seller and buyer of the risks associated with permitting an individual to enter the property or from entering another individual’s property.



By signing the form, the seller or buyer acknowledges that by permitting such access or by accessing the property they assume the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19.


How do you stay informed about changes to policies and recommendations for real estate professionals in your area?


Multiple ways. Our HGAR Board of Realtors is very good about sending emails out whenever NYSAR posts an update. I also have an email feed for Inman, The Real Deal, Nysar, NAR, RisMedia, and other platforms.


How have you implemented or improved online marketing platforms to communicate with buyers and sellers in your market?


We are fortunate that our online platforms are the best available to agents. The change and improvements during this time has been our drive to use these platforms better. Because our business is about relationships, the face to face contact with the consumer has always been our primary way of communicating with buyers and sellers. Although that has been changing over the years, sadly many agents have not taken full advantage of the technology available to them.



The online marketing technology is available to all regardless of company. It is really about who can inspire the agent to embrace it the most. In a way, COVID-19 has put a fire under those agents who did not take advantage of the tools. What we are trying to improve is the adoption of those tools.


Do you have thoughts on how rental agents or property managers can operate more effectively right now? Are you seeing movement in the rental market specifically?


Rentals are a great alternative for consumers who were years away from moving out of the city and not quite sure where they wanted to move. By renting, they don’t have to make a permanent commitment and can experience living somewhere new before committing to a buy. The pandemic has seen the timeline of buyers move up and renting is a way to start that process now rather than waiting.


What else would you like to share relevant to real estate in the age of COVID-19?


My sense is that COVID-19 has and will change the way we work. It has forced us as an industry to leverage technology so that we may be more efficient. The consumer will still need to visit a home to purchase or rent so the importance of face to face will never diminish. But both the industry and the consumer are experiencing the value of virtual contact -- and I believe that value will continue on even after we find a vaccine.


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