Real estate, an essential business

Published 10:27 am Wednesday, April 15, 2020

By Kaitlin Holley

Real Estate is considered an essential business in each of the following states, and yet in each one, social distancing is strongly encouraged, as well as other practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Alabama mandated the shutdown of certain non-essential businesses, recently, until April 17, and a stay-at-home order is in effect until April 30 at 5 p.m.

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Debbie Rowell, owner and broker at Southern Real Estate, said there have been some changes since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The most significant change has been the amount of walk in business we have,” Rowell said. “We have had a reduction in telephone calls. Most of the activity we have had are serious buyers. We are still able to show property. If customers do need to write or sign any forms, they bring their own pen and they are very respectful about social distancing.

“Most of the homes we have shown have not been occupied, some of them have been but I have noticed the prospects make a note to not touch anything in the homes,” she added. “It has reduced our business, but we are still selling, showing and closing homes. A lot of the title companies and closing attorneys are not allowing the realtor to go in the closing appointment with the buyer and the seller. They are doing this in an effort to have people not close together for any time.”

Rowell said even closing properties is different.

“For instance on one closing, the title company instructed the buyer and seller and realtor to sit in the car,” she said. “The closing agent will actually do the closing outside of the car. The mortgage companies are requiring more documentation for closing. They want reassurance that the buyer has a job or is working or will be working after the pandemic is over. They want guarantees that the buyers will remain employed once the pandemic is over.”

Lisa Reynolds, owner of Reynolds Real Estate, said the biggest impact is on the mortgage side.

“Very little interest, but on the buyer interest side is wide open with that,” Reynolds said. “The biggest impact is the changes on the mortgage side. We are just as busy as we were four weeks ago. The office manager and I are the only ones at the office. I showed three houses last night, but we are not shaking hands. It is easier to show vacant houses we try to be really respectful if there are still people in the homes.”

Reynolds said the rules now are a lot stricter.

“The tension, stress and fear is still at the max with everything,” she said. “There is a sign on the door that says no visitors. We expect a phone appointment so we know who is coming. It is a mixed blessing to be an essential worker and to be able to continue to work. It is still scary and we want to still be safe. Of course I want to be essential but it is very different when you see the impact of social distancing.”

Patty Helton Davis, owner of PHD Realty, said she is trying to keep positive during the restrictions on her business.

“Our door is locked and we are using masks and sanitizing,” Davis said. “It definitely has slowed down the traffic in the office and slowed down the sales. When you don’t have people moving around, you dont have people coming. This is the height of the sales season, and you would not know it. All the restrictions they have put on us have definitely been different. We are doing some real positive things in our office so once the restriction of being isolated lifts we hope to bring a new face out. We are working on things that will enhance the business when you are not able to get out and can’t get your children out. It is hard to make financial decisions. The unknown is scary for people. You can’t focus on the negative you have to focus on the positive. Change the way you promote and advertise and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”