Real estate industry adapts to COVID-19 restrictions

US home sales slump in February
Posted at 7:44 AM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 05:16:26-04

The real estate industry is one portion of Wisconsin's economy classified as essential under Gov. Tony Evers' Safer at Home order.

Realtor Tom Combs, a managing partner at The Combs Team at RE/MAX Realty 100, said this is the first time in his almost 20-year career that health concerns have forced the industry to change how it conducts routine business.

"The way we interact, the way we're showing houses, the way we're marketing houses, all that has definitely changed," Combs said.

Combs said he is still conducting some in-home showings. Most buyers want to walk through a house before putting in an offer.

But he said the number of people allowed inside is restricted to "essential buyers" and a real estate agent.

"Bringing the kids along, bringing the parents along, that's not allowed," Combs said.

He said sellers have been instructed to do things like leave lights on, and leave doors open, to minimize anyone touching things inside their homes.

"In the past, you'd never think twice about grabbing a door knob or turning on a light switch," Combs said.

Prospective buyers touring a home are also given disposable gloves, footies, and a mask.

Combs is also encouraging buyers to do online, 3D tours of a listing before scheduling a walk through.

"When they're going into a house, people are now more serious before they go in," he said. "Whereas before, it was often the attitude of, 'let's just go take a look.'"

The 3D tours have been made available on some properties over the last couple of years, but Combs said he's now made sure they're available on all properties he's showing - to be proactive against the spread of coronavirus.

On a positive note, Combs said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a minimal impact on housing prices.

"Right now, we're seeing well over 90 percent of the offers my team has written in the last month, or month and a half, have been competing with other buyers," Combs said.

He said the main reason why is that demand for homes continues to outpace supply.

Combs thinks part of that may be families are hesitant to sell a house and move during the coronavirus outbreak.

But he said the main factors are a growing population, and a tendency among older Americans to stay in their houses longer than in the past. It was previously more common for older homeowners to downsize, and relocate to smaller homes or condominiums, Combs said.

"There are more buyers than houses to buy right now, so prices continue to stay at least at the same level," Combs said. "We're not seeing a decrease in home prices at the moment."

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