Real estate agents in Greater Houston area adjust to social distancing measures

(Courtesy Fotolia)
(Courtesy Fotolia)

(Courtesy Fotolia)

Since late March, the Houston Association of Realtors has stopped any public open houses due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place all across the Greater Houston region, said Chaille Ralph, the vice president of operations for Houston-based Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene.

“I do think Realtors are adjusting to different ways of doing business,” Ralph said. “Certainly, as a listing agent, we're used to meeting people at the homes or opening up the homes for open houses. As buyers agents we're used to touring every home the buyers interested in.”

How are Greater Houston-area Realtors faring during this time?

Conducting virtual showings and virtual open houses has become a strong part of our industry right now. Agents and companies have been very proactive and really trying to figure out better ways to get clients to see the home through 360-degree tours and 3D images so that people can kind of walk through the home virtually. People are conducting physical showings. But in many cases, that's only if it's a serious buyer. I do have agents that are out showing, you know, two to three times a week because they have buyers that need to find a home. We all need a place to live.

Is now a good time to buy or sell a house?

It's important that a buyer or a seller consult with a Realtor to really understand what's happening in the market at the time because it can change. Inventory typically is low across the board. Obviously, some neighborhoods may have more inventory than others. Interest rates are low, so it's a great time to buy. Interest rates are low, so it's a great time for a seller to have their house on the market because there's buyers out there looking.

What type of relief can homeowners seek on their mortgages during this time?

I think the sooner a homeowner contacts their lender, the better off they'll be. I mean, obviously, it's going to change from lender to lender, I'm sure. But all the advice I've ever given anybody is to contact someone as soon as you know you might need help, even if you're not sure if you're going to need help yet. We don't do property management, but I know some property management companies have said let us know as soon as you know you might need help so that we can figure out a way to work with you. Not that we're waiving anything, but we'll figure out how to make things work. But if we don't hear from you, then we expect you to pay.

What long-term effects do you expect for the real estate market in the aftermath of the coronavirus?

I think if we knew how long we were going to be on stay-at-home [orders] or social distancing, we’d have a better idea. I mean, if we come out of this in the next two weeks and we can start to get back to a new normal it'll be less than what it could be if it goes on. More than the pandemic, I think, our economy is crucial to us being able to get everybody back on the ground. A lot of people have lost jobs. So we need people employed. I don't think we've felt the full effect of it yet. And it's hard to tell what it will be but I do think that we're anticipating slowdowns in the 50% to 70% range at least probably for the next 90 to 120 days.
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


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