Del. realtors get creative to sell homes while keeping a distance during coronavirus

Real estate transactions may be slowing down, but realtors say they’re still finding ways to sell homes and help clients that have to move.

Wilmington, Delaware (Tim Kiser/Wikimedia Commons)

Wilmington, Delaware (Tim Kiser/Wikimedia Commons)

People are still buying and selling homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the real estate industry is taking measures to protect everyone involved, while offering service to those who need to move.

The Delaware Association of Realtors put out 32 recommendations to realtors in the state about how to do their jobs safely during the pandemic.

The list includes eliminating in-person showings — which have dropped between 50 and 60% — working from home, completing paperwork electronically and basic safety measures like wearing gloves, hand washing and sanitizing.

“If we stop real estate altogether, it’s almost like the state comes to a screeching halt. People have jobs, and they have to move. Military people have to come here. If you’re on orders, you’re considered essential personnel,” said DAR President Beau Zebley. “We’re being responsible. We’re practicing social distancing. We’re trying to only show houses for people who have to move now.”

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Realtors have also put measures in place to protect clients, such as giving sellers the option to temporarily take their homes off the market during the pandemic, allowing homes to become active again as soon as the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted. So far, about 10% of Delaware homes have this status, Zebley said. DAR also suggests realtors create a written consensus in their agreement of sale documents to accommodate delays in transactions.

About 10% of listings have been withdrawn indefinitely over the past two weeks, Zebley said, which is unusual in the spring season.

“We should be having a crazy market right now. There should be homes sold in the matter of hours,” he said. “We were busy all through winter, so it was indicating this was going to be one of the best spring/summers in history, and now it looks like it’s going to be 2007 or 8 again.”

However, Zebley said clients still need realtors’ help, and they’re making accommodations.

People are still moving into new homes, and moving companies are considered essential, he said. Clients are still getting jobs in other cities and states, or selling homes because they’ve been laid off.

However, the fact so many buyers are from out-of-state makes selling a bit challenging. Gov. John Carney issued an executive order more than a week ago requiring any visitors from outside Delaware to self-quarantine for 14 days. The order has pushed realtors to be more creative, including creating video tours of homes, Facebook Live events and virtual open houses. Zebley said he just spoke to a client from out-of-state who is considering moving to Delaware, but did not want to self-quarantine.

“I said, ‘I can look for you, we can shoot video virtual tours,’” Zebley said.

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“We’re trying to be responsible, try to limit people, but bring attention to the fact we’re selling real estate,” he added, “even though it’s in limited capacity.”

He said his videos and photos are thorough — he walks through the house as if he’s buying it, photographing any problems and offering estimates on how much it would cost to fix them.

“You have to do extra due diligence trying to make sure the customer will be happy when they see the house,” Zebley said.

He said one of his clients is buying a home, but needs approval from the Air Force before he’s allowed to move in. Now, Zebley is sending the client videos of the home so he knows what to expect before he’s finally able to move in.

“He wanted the height of the garage. I took a step ladder and kit over there and measured the height of the garage, and the width of the basement door and took a video of the opening and closing of the cabinets and draws,” he said.

“People are sitting at home with nothing to do and they’re bored out of their minds, so that’s why I’ve been there five to seven times,” Zebley joked. “I’m okay with it though!”

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