If it was a buyer’s housing market before the pandemic, it’s nobody’s market now.
Bloomington-Normal Realtors are retooling to find ways to sell homes at a time when no one is leaving their home.
There were three open houses scheduled in the Bloomington-Normal area this weekend. All have since been canceled. According to the Gov. JB Pritzker's shelter-in-place order, in person open houses are not permitted.
Penny Wilson, president of the Bloomington-Normal Association of Realtors (BNAR), said a typical spring weekend would see 10 times that number. But the coronavirus has curbed the enthusiasm for home buyers and sellers.
“I have asked my personal clients, if you don’t have to see it today let’s put it off,” Wilson said. “If you are going to have to put your home on the market in order to purchase, let’s put that out to the future.”
Wilson said with each of the three open houses scheduled for this weekend, the homes have been on the market for several months, leaving little chance any of them would end up violating state of Illinois guidelines limiting crowds of no more than 10 people.
She said some agents are doing virtual home tours, which could become a trend with home sellers leery about welcoming people into their homes during the pandemic, adding she expects more agents to use virtual tours to at least pique a buyer's curiosity.
“If you can see something in real time, I don’t know that that would be enough to encourage a buyer to write an offer, but certainly might make them say ‘Ok, it’s worth us getting out and come take a look at it in person,’” Wilson said.
She said while the BNAR doesn’t dictate how agents should manage COVID-19 and the social distancing guidelines the state and federal governments have enacted through the end of April, she encourages agents to resist showing a home if possible.
Most agents, she said, are working from home and when they are showing a home, they are practicing social distancing and home cleanliness as much as they can.
Some will ask prospective buyers to wear gloves, masks and shoe covers and they will ask sellers to turn on all the lights and open all interior doors so visitors don’t have to touch anything.
Wilson said some title companies are asking Realtors to skip the closing and have the buyers and sellers sign documents in separate rooms.
Last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order allowing notarizations used in real estate transactions to be done remotely.
While the pandemic presents trying and uncertain times for the real estate industry, Wilson said Realtors understand their responsibility to help prevent the coronavirus’ spread.
“Sprits are up, we are still smiling and trying to go about our business the best way that we can, especially if we have to meet them out of town, we are trying to work with them,” she said. “It’s just doing the best we can to protect ourselves and our clients and the sellers as well.”
Realtor.com reports the number of homes for sale dropped nearly 16% through March compared to the first quarter of 2019.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the three scheduled open houses in Bloomington-Normal were canceled.
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