HARTFORD, CT — Just as the spring home buying season was about to begin, COVID-19 changed everything.
Buying a home and selling a home is already one of the most stressful periods in someone’s life and now the process by which it happens has been turned on its head by a global pandemic.
There are many questions for realtors. Should they continue to hold open houses? How can they get access to property records or certificates of occupancy if town halls are closed? Is it safe to have a home inspection or appraisal?
Realtors and those in the real estate industry are allowed to keep working under Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order, but many are finding it difficult to navigate changes resulting from COVID-19.
Evan Berman, a real estate agent with William Raveis, said everyone is handling the situation differently.
He said some people are still acting like there’s nothing happening, while others are acting like it’s the end of the world.
He said he saw one agent online talking about how he had more than 30 people come to an open house this past weekend.
Berman said his company has canceled open houses, but even before that, he was making sure to wipe down every door knob and open every closet and window. He said most people kept their hands in their pockets and he stood outside the house with a clipboard writing down people’s names and email addresses.
Berman said he wears gloves now and has set up a Zoom account to meet new clients online as opposed to in-person. He’s also increased the number of virtual tours he’s doing with Facebook Live.
Despite the obstacles, Berman said the market is still chugging along.
In West Hartford, 27 properties, which include six rentals, came on the market in the past seven days and 31 properties have gone under deposit during that same time period.
It’s possible sellers could start pulling their properties off the market, but there’s no indication of that yet.
At this point, in Connecticut demand outweighs supply. And before coronavirus there were low interest rates, an okay economy, and a mild winter which all pointed toward a perfect storm “for me to make a lot of money,” Berman said.
But now he’s reluctant to go out, which he knows will jeopardize his own income, which “has to be secondary to my health and safety.”
He admitted that right now not all real estate agents are on the same page.
Joanne Breen, president of CT Realtors, said that their executive committee put out guidance suggesting no more open houses and asking Realtors to use virtual tools for buyers.
She said Smart MLS is adding a free virtual tool to make it easier for agents to upload a video tour with their MLS listing. Breen said more and more people are viewing properties online and more business leads are coming from the internet.
As for this year’s home buying season, “it got off to a wonderful start,” Breen said.
She said she had multiple offers coming in on her listings as recently as last week.
Leslie Hammond, a real estate agent for 26 years, said she had three contracts come together recently and it felt like the market was really starting to do better with multiple offers on properties.
However, things could change quickly if home buyers lose their jobs as a result of pandemic.
Hammond said it’s really a “case-by-case” basis. She said some home buyers have not been as impacted as others.
“It’s too soon to tell how bad things are,” Hammond said.
If some sellers get worried about contracting COVID-19 some homes may get pulled from the market, and those already under contract may have to wait longer to close.
Breen said they are doing everything they can to prevent unanticipated delays in the process and are grateful Lamont decided real estate agents and the services that support them are considered essential.