When Covid-19 Novel Corona Virus began back in February (actually on Dec. 31, 2019, in Wuhan, China, but possibly earlier) our administration was formerly warned! Back then who would have thought that it would have become a pandemic of such a severe and deadly impact throughout the globe.
I would never have imagined that it would have shut down the real estate industry as well as the majority of all non-essential businesses in the United States in such a way as to critically and totally blindside our national and state governments without our being able to proactively create some type of plan in advance with some guidance from Washington. This most monumental and history-making pandemic had no prior history or track record or way for us to know how to handle this tsunami of an event.
There was information out there, however, that really wasn’t taken seriously as we all know from the live news reports that we saw and the way this most serious situation was initially handled in a haphazard fashion as if it was nothing to worry about and that it would pass during the warmer months. Well, we all know now what has happened and that, unfortunately, the United States has succumbed to the greatest number of infections and deaths in the world.
It has shaken so many businesses and livelihoods and put our economy in such a rapid tailspin from the most robust environment into a recession in less than five weeks’ time (most likely a depression if we don’t come out with an antidote vaccine in the very near future) like no other event in recent memory. In my professional opinion, it is obviously apparent that we could have been so much more cognizant and prepared if our pandemic was considered much more seriously. Then again, in our world common sense is generally not common.
We as realtors are currently prevented from showing properties as well as doing open houses (except by virtual tours) by the current New York state regulations enacted by Gov. Cuomo four weeks ago and I wholeheartedly agree. I also realize that we are waiting for that magic number of 14 days of no increases in infections to know that maybe we will be allowed to begin opening up our NYS economy (as well as other states, too) once again.
Responsible individuals are going out to the grocery stores and food takeouts wearing their masks, surgical gloves and also hopefully carrying disinfectant wipes and using them to use on whatever packages that are touched by other parties to be safe and eliminate transmitting the virus to themselves or anyone else. So we are around people (not necessarily crowds) and although my community has hundreds of people who have been infected (although I am not sure how many have died since I cannot find any statistics), we are going out to parks, walking and running.
I was in Steppingstone Park last Sunday, May 3, where there was the greatest gathering of people that I have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, but for the most part they were social distancing and the majority had masks or face coverings.
So, Governor Cuomo, if you want our economy to take its first baby step in healing itself, please rescind your order on our real estate industry, which is a truly essential business as you originally had said a few weeks ago. A full 99.9 percent of buyers will not buy from a virtual tour and by the time they and sellers become comfortable with this type of “new norm” in buying and selling, will our economy survive to prosper once again? If it does, how many years will it take to recover? Begin slowly and allow us to begin showing homes and doing open houses with several caveats.
No. 1, limit showings to a maximum of four people with the showing or listing agent the only one to open doors, cabinets or anything else and the buyers would have to wear the same PPE (masks or face coverings and gloves) as we would be required to do. No. 2, for those of us who are experienced and responsible to our buyers and sellers, the same would hold true when the house inspector and appraiser shows up, too. We can limit exposure during open houses by only allowing two people in at a time and the rest would have to wait outside or in their cars. Sellers would have to be wearing their masks or face coverings and have handy disinfectant wipes as a back-up. Sellers would also have an option to leave their home until showings are completed.
Empty homes would obviously be easier to show with fewer chances of any issues occurring. The showing agent and/or listing agent after the showing would be required to wipe off all touched surfaces as well as all door, cabinet, sinks, toilet bowl handles, etc. and sign a sheet with their name, date, and time of doing so. The NYSAR (NY Association of Realtors) and N.A.R. (National Association of Realtors) could provide input and guidance to create a plan to follow (I would be more than happy to assist, too).
Fines could be enacted and levied since warnings would not be sufficient when someone’s health is at stake and the rules are not followed. The Long Island Board of Realtors and the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island have strict fines without warnings and it works quite well.
Real Estate is one of the true engines of our economy and without sales of homes how and why would buyers (and developers) purchase refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, microwaves, washers, dryers and all the capital improvements that many pay for enabling more jobs to start once again and begin propelling our economy forward to where it was? In conjunction with NYSAR, NAR and Albany, regulations and guidance as such would give us the ground rules to allow the 125,000+ Realtors in NYS to bring our economy back from the deadly depths to a healthier state while allowing us to begin earning a living once again.
Philip A. Raices is the owner/Broker of Turn Key Real Estate at 3 Grace Ave Suite 180 in Great Neck. He has earned designations as a Graduate of the Realtor Institute (G.R.I.) and also as a Certified International Property Specialist (C.I.P.S). Just email or snail mail (regular mail) him with your ideas and suggestions on future columns with your name, email, and cell and he will call or email you back. For a consultation, he can be reached by cell: (516) 647-4289 or by email: Phil@TurnKeyRealEstate.Com to answer any of your questions or concerns.