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Realtors find 'unprecedented ways' to reach, accommodate potential buyers

Posted at 2:54 PM, Dec 29, 2020

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida's housing market remains strong. Sales for single-family homes, for example, are up almost 14% compared to last year.

However, the National Association of Realtors said COVID-19 is still impacting realtors in unprecedented ways, particularly when it comes to reaching and accommodating potential buyers.

Attorney Jonathan Bloom and his wife Nel, owner of Dirty Blonde Hair Salon, aren't on the water for recreation.

“We're not the easiest. We know what we want we just have to find it," Jonathan said. “We’re looking for what we hope is our last home.”

“It was a great idea of [our realtor's] to get us out on the boat and see this angle and see this perspective of the home,” Nel said.

The realtor is Bonnie Heatzig, BEX Realty's director of luxury property division who twice a week shows homes on the water during the COVID-19 pandemic.

”People are absolutely in this post-COVID period using these boat tours as a tool to refine their search for their dream home,” Heatzig said. “It minimizes the prospective buyers touching of different parts of the homes. We take COVID-19 very, very seriously and want to maintain the safety protocols to a T to protect everyone involved.”

The National Association of Realtors released guidance over the summer to include an obligation to make “reasonable accommodations” and adherence to best practices to prevent COVID-exposure. Accommodations will vary depending on where you plan to buy.

”In California right now you can't have a public open house,” said Sue “Pinky” Benson, a RE/MAX realty team licensed realtor. “They do not allow it. They're all on lockdown.”

Benson, who has been using social media as a platform to reach buyers for 10 years now, does up to five “real-time” property showcasings a day.

”It evolved from just posts, to pictures, to videos to Facebook Live. Now it's short form video like TikTok video,” Benson said. “So that [buyers] can come back for educated questions for me about what else they need to know.”

But Benson also offers advice to sellers who opt for open houses amid the pandemic.

”If you're thinking about selling your home let me give you this piece of advice: it is crucial that when you interview the real estate agent that you're thinking about hiring that you ask them how are they handling COVID clients right now,” Benson said.

The National Association of Realtors offers strict guidance before, during and after showings:

Before Conducting In-Person Showings:

  • Check state and local executive orders to confirm the permissibility, and any specific requirements, of conducting in-person showings
  • Encourage buyers to narrow their property search through photos, virtual tours, and leveraging other technology to reduce the number of in-person showings
  • Consider adopting a policy of asking all buyers for a pre-qualification letter to limit in-person showings only to qualified and serious buyers
  • Be familiar with state and local restrictions based on whether a property is vacant, owner-occupied, or tenant-occupied, and consider implementing different precautions for occupied properties versus vacant properties
  • Discuss with a seller the precautions that will be taken when showing their property, and adhere to any specific requirements requested by sellers showing the property
  • Require property showings by appointment, in lieu of open houses, to reduce the number of persons in a property at any given time
  • Request both the seller and potential buyers to self-disclose whether they have COVID-19 or exhibit any symptoms. However, note that COVID-19 is also spread by individuals who are asymptomatic
  • Be aware of any state or local restrictions on the number of people who may be present at the showing, and discourage non-essential parties from attending the showing
  • Be aware of and comply with fair housing obligations related to COVID-19, see Guidance for Fair Housing Compliance During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Ask buyers to remain in their vehicle until you arrive at the property
  • For owner or tenant-occupied properties, request that the seller or tenant open all cabinets, closets, window coverings, and to turn on lights before leaving the property
  • For vacant properties, arrive early to open the front door, open all cabinets, closet, window coverings, and to turn on lights

During In-Person Showings:

  • Adhere to social distancing recommendations, and maintain a minimum of six feet of space between persons at all times
  • Avoid shaking hands with clients
  • Limit the number of persons who may attend a showing, such as only four people total
  • Require all persons entering a property to immediately wash their hands or to use hand sanitizer, remove footwear or wear booties, and wear a face mask or covering, and gloves
  • Instruct buyers and others touring the home to avoid touching any surfaces in the home, such as light switches, cabinet and door handles
  • Instruct buyers and guests not to use bathroom facilities at the property
  • Do not share phones, pens, or tablets or other personal property during the showing
  • Comply with any requirements of the seller during the showing

After Showing Property:

  • Wipe down any surfaces touched during the showing with a sanitizing wipe or disinfecting cleaner, as requested by seller, and suggest the seller also disinfect the property
  • Wipe down the key and lockbox with a sanitizing wipe or disinfecting cleaner after use
  • Speak with buyers outside of the property or in a ventilated area while maintaining a distance of 6 feet, or arrange to speak by phone or email
  • Do not provide any paper documents, and instead follow up with any information electronically after you leave the property
  • Use hand sanitizer upon returning to your vehicle
  • Maintain a detailed log of interactions to enable contact tracing, to include names, dates, and locations of interactions, as well as a party’s contact information

More information from the National Association of Realtors can be found by clicking here.