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Real Estate Sales Slow Now, But Agents Expect a Hot Summer

Realtors Adapt to New Realities Under COVID-19

Photo by Alan Olson Realtor Alicia Peklinsky, left, prepares to give a home tour to Renee and Ryan Storm, all decked out in masks and gloves.

WHEELING — With most people keeping to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and limiting their time spent outside, realtors are seeing a decline in business as few people are opening their doors to lookie-loos, and few want to invade others’ space.

However, those realtors are holding out hope that when summer comes around and people reintegrate into society, business will return with a vengeance, as late springtime into summer is normally a high point in the real estate market.

While Lee Paull, of Paull Associates, said the normally strong spring markets have been busy in their own way — slow for the typical year, but unexpectedly busy, considering the pandemic.

“It’s been a decent spring, and I say that because a lot of our deals that we’re closing on now, and a lot of those deals were done up in March,” he said. “Last year was a very busy year for real estate, one of the biggest in ten years. Now, since we’ve been locked down for 30 days, we’ve been busy, but you can tell 50 percent or more of people are like, ‘Hey Lee, see me in June and we’ll put the house on the market.’

“We’re busier than I thought, because a lot of people are looking for that home,” he added. “You get the most variety for a buyer in the spring, because people have cabin fever, … and everyone knows that. … What this virus has done is really made us adapt.”

At Kennen and Kennen Inc., Bob Kennen said the springtime has thus far been exceptionally slow for their office, but shares Paull’s hopes that as the area opens back up and loosens quarantine procedures, business will return.

“Activity is down considerably. It’s not down to zero, but it’s down sixty or seventy percent,” Kennen said. “I think there’s a great deal of pent-up demand out there. Spring is typically our best time for our market, and I hope this isn’t just wishful thinking on our part. But I think that pent-up demand is really going to break loose.”

While sales that began earlier in the spring have continued to complete their transactions under quarantine, sellers’ hesitance in letting others into their homes has given reason for realtors to get creative in how they advertise the homes. Kennen said their realtors have begun taking more video tours through prospective properties, often using video chat with buyers to

“We’re getting a lot of requests for video tours of homes,” he said. “When they feel comfortable coming out, they’ll already have a feel for it. … We’re trying to be creative, trying to keep interest alive.

“It’s an unusual time to be in real estate,” Kennen added. “We’re all trying to practice good social distance, … but there’s business in the pipeline that we’re trying to keep working on.”

Paull said they’ve needed to innovate their virtual tours as well, using 3D images of the properties to allow customers to tour the facility online.

“With getting through this virus, technology has been crucial,” Paull said. “People still need to see the house, so what we’ve done is that we’ve ramped up our technology. We’ve always had virtual tours, but now there’s 3D tech we’re going to be investing in — you’re in a room and you see a hallway, you click that and it moves you down the hallway, that’s what we’re investing in.”

He added that his realtors still work with some sellers who allow tours to take place on their property, as realtors and buyers don masks and gloves and walk through the house while trying to keep the touching to a minimum in the last stages of prospective house ownership.

“I said to one seller, ask them if we can come in, realtor and the buyers, masks and gloves on, we won’t touch anything, and it’s worked,” he said. “The renters are there watching the buyers come through. what we’re recommending is that they have closet doors open, doors to the basement and the attic, so we don’t have to touch anything. I’d air the house out, have the doors open front and back, and that’s helped a lot.

For those looking to sell their house after in the coming months, Paull advised that they spend the extra time spent stuck at home ensuring their residences look the part for a house on the market.

“If there’s anything broken, needs replaced, do it. Clean it. People are going to want to come look at the basement to look at the foundation. Declutter. Landscape your yard. With this kind of market, even appraisers … are relying on technology, too. They’re taking the virtual tours, because they want to see the condition of the house, too.”

Despite the availability of virtual tours, Paull said, appraisers will likely need to physically enter homes at some point to inspect wiring or look for cracks, and other details that just can’t be done remotely.

Overall, Paull estimates that 2020 likely will shape up to be an unusual, though not necessarily devastating, year for the real estate market, with a weak springtime backed with a superior summer for the market.

“I thought it would be a lot worse, where we wouldn’t have been able to do anything, but it’s amazing. When homes in a certain section of Wheeling are up to sell, they’re going to sell quick. People are going to find a way to get in it. They know this is going to be over hopefully within the next month, where it’s going to be more comfortable, so we’ll get draped up in our gloves and our masks and go take a look. It’s really going to be, in my opinion, a crazy summer.”

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