WORTHINGTON — Many local businesses have experienced historic lows as a result of the novel coronavirus, but real estate agencies have managed to limit losses by making a few adjustments to the way they normally operate.
Low inventory and low interest rates make this summer a good time to buy a home, realtors from each local agency pointed out. The process has just shifted a little to emphasize social distancing.
"There's always more than one way to do it," said Renee Baerenwald, an agent with Edina Realty. "We provide the best service we can but keep everyone's safety first."
Some safety measures include limiting contact with light switches and doorknobs, offering buyers the chance to walk through a home without the realtor present and asking that buyers leave parents and children at home while they tour options, Edina's Staci Murphy added.
Technology has played a major role in keeping real estate moving, Jason Johnson of Johnson Builders & Realty explained.
"We have the technology now that 10 years ago we wouldn't have," he said, explaining that tools like virtual showings, electronic signatures and online pre-approval allow buyers and sellers to make transactions without necessarily meeting in person.
Even property closings are contact-free, Murphy and Baerenwald noted. When closing on a home, a buyer or seller can sit alone in a room with the paperwork in front of them, with the closing agent on a screen walking them through the signatures. After they leave, the room is sanitized, and the other party comes in to chat with the closing agent and sign the papers.
Genny McCuen, broker at RE/MAX Premier Realty, added that some procedural changes have bolstered sales in the first half of the year.
"The type of business we're doing is more intentional business," she said. Buyers are more deliberate and have been spending less time "just looking" before getting serious about their search.
In a typical year, McCuen noted, the busiest months in real estate are April through June. This year, June through August will likely see the most transactions — although, as always, real estate is an active business year-round.
Overall, sales did not fall as much as local agents expected.
"We've had a very busy summer," Johnson concluded.