The COVID-19 crisis isn’t over yet, but new guidelines are giving people significantly more freedom to gather together without the pressures of the pandemic. That could prove liberating for real estate agents.
Almost exactly a year after the coronavirus pandemic began to force North Americans apart, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offered a glimmer of hope on Monday: Fully vaccinated people can safely gather indoors without having to wear masks.
The CDC’s new guidelines were hailed as further evidence that the seemingly endless grip of the pandemic was finally loosening. After nearly 30 million cases and more than half a million deaths in the US, it appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.
However, the new guidelines – together with increasing vaccination rates – also have important effects on real estate. While sales have remained strong in many areas over the past few months, it has mostly been despite a number of restrictions that required things like ubiquitous masks and hand sanitizers, forcing many real estate professionals to do their jobs remotely. The guidelines don’t single-handedly reverse these rules (which were different from place to place), but they do suggest that some level of normalcy may return and things like open houses may be on the way back.
For Andrea Geller, this means hope for parts of her market that have lagged behind during the pandemic. Geller, an agent at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago, told Inman on Monday that the suburbs of her market have seen robust sales recently. Sales are so strong that “you only get it in [multiple listing service] and be alive to receive multiple offers. “
However, the core urban market in Chicago has not seen such robust demand. Part of the problem is that high-rise buildings require elevators, which potential buyers seem reluctant to use during the pandemic.
And Geller said that even after the state allowed limited open days last year, some higher density buildings continued to prohibit them for security reasons. According to Geller, many urban buyers also like to browse “on their own” without an agent.
“These are properties that I used to sell through open days,” she said, adding that the ability to have open days in such properties now is “a huge asset.”
Geller, who received both doses of the Moderna vaccine, said that as the vaccinations progressed, more and more buildings opened up to practices such as open days. And now it looks even better.
“On Saturday, when I was doing demonstrations, it was the first time in a year that I actually felt a certain normality,” she continued.
Of course, the CDC guidelines still urge people to exercise caution. Fully vaccinated people, for example, continue to be encouraged to wear masks and keep social distance from unvaccinated people. Medium and large gatherings are still discouraged, and the agency eventually pointed out that “the vast majority of people must be fully vaccinated before COVID-19 precautions can be generally lifted”.
At the institutional level, it appeared on Monday that major real estate players were still figuring out what the new rules meant.
In response to the instructions, for example, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors Inman asked in an email that the information was still being digested. The email added that the CDC guidelines give “some hope of normalcy”, although “it’s important to note that there are certain criteria for people who have been vaccinated to interact with others without a mask.”
A spokesman for Realogy – mother of brands like Coldwell Banker and Century 21 – told Inman, “Health and safety remain a priority.”
“We continue to encourage all employees and affiliates to follow CDC guidelines, including these latest updates, and to adhere to local mandates,” added the spokesman.
Inman has reached out to several other large industrial companies and will update this story as soon as they respond.
But even if the new CDC guidelines did not immediately change the guidelines for large real estate institutions, they do help create an evolving tone on the ground. Angela Morsa, a Compass agent in Philadelphia, told Inman that she recently went back to the office for the first time in a long time, and she now welcomes the opportunity to leave the house even more.
“I assume we’ll be going to the office more often,” she said. “Maybe two days a week just to get out.”
Morsa – who recently received her first dose of the vaccine along with her husband – said she had seen more and more open houses in her area. Not quite ready to hold them herself, she says, “We are so madly busy in this market that I don’t think it’s necessary to have open houses.” But by the summer she expects to be able to hold open houses if customers so wish.
Not everything is back to normal for Morsa. Compass still does not have face-to-face meetings in her area and she recalled the ongoing challenge of working with older customers who have not yet been vaccinated.
Despite these struggles, she was optimistic, saying the improving conditions could push her to reach customers this week and encourage all fence sitters to get into the market.
“I feel more hopeful and positive,” concluded Morsa, “than I have in a long time.”
Email Jim Dalrymple II