As with most industries, the world of real estate is having to get creative during these unprecedented times to curb the spread of COVID-19 while keeping business afloat.

Vicki Fullerton, a Realtor with RE/MAX The Woodlands & Spring who currently serves as a director of the National Association of Realtors and has previously served as a past chair for both the Houston Association of Realtors and Texas Realtors, said in her 42-year career in the real estate industry, nothing compares to the current state of the world.

“I’ve lived through the downturn in the '80s; I’ve lived through the floods in the '90s, the Y2K scare, the economic downturn, the hurricanes and the economic upheaval, and nothing has matched what we have undergone since March 10,” Fullerton said. “We have to be a lot more considerate of our clients—both buyers and sellers—and how they feel about in-person showings.”

Across the industry—as with the rest of the world—Fullerton said if a seller does allow for in-person showings, masks, gloves, shoe covers and hand sanitizer have become necessities for both real estate agents and their clients. Throughout the showing, doors and cabinets are left ajar while lights remain on to minimize contact points, she added.

“Not only did [the pandemic] slow the market down, but it changed everything,” said Marc Wade, a real estate agent with Red Door Realty & Associates. “It went from [being] a real personal, one-on-one experience ... to not being allowed to have open houses ... sanitizing everything ... doing virtual showings. Things definitely changed in that realm.”

When in-person showings are not a favorable option, however, real estate agents said they are turning to technology for the safety and convenience of both sellers and buyers.

“I’ve actually done [virtual options] in the past for clients moving in from out of state, but I’ve offered it up even more so now, where we will [use] FaceTime or Skype during showings for people who are not comfortable going out and about,” said Melissa Whitehead, a real estate agent with Red Door Realty & Associates. “Also, on my listings I’m more apt [now] to do virtual tours on our listings and open houses if they want it.”

Whitehead added the increase in virtual showings has actually become a more efficient way for buyers to narrow down the few houses they are strongly considering and would like to view in person, cutting down on unnecessary foot traffic through homes.

In addition to logistical changes to the actual home buying and selling process, real estate agents said COVID-19 has also affected the reasons behind why a homeowner is buying or selling a home.

“We went on a listing last Friday, and the reason they’re moving is because they decided after lockdown that they wanted to go back to East Texas to be closer to their family because they couldn’t be around [their family] as much as they wanted to during the lockdown,” said Connie Santiago, a real estate agent with The Santiago Team of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene.

The other half of The Santiago Team—Connie's husband, Jerry Santiago—added while job losses have also played a role in a client’s relocating, in other cases those who are in industries that have performed well throughout the pandemic are actually buying second homes along Lake Conroe and in Galveston.

“We sold like three houses in Conroe in the last two weeks,” he said. “A lot of people just got a little stir crazy I guess and said ‘Hey, we need a second home.’ I know Houston is very oil and gas heavy, but there are all sorts of other industries and markets that are really doing well throughout all this, so people are still buying and selling homes at the end of the day.”

Real estate agents said additional effects of COVID-19 include homebuyers seeking houses with designated game rooms and office space to better serve children and working parents in the event of another lockdown.