Can you still buy and sell houses in Orange and Osceola counties under a stay-at-home mandate?
The short answer is yes.
Under the new guidelines, real estate agents can conduct business over the phone or electronically. House closings should be done remotely, and in-person showings should limit the amount of people in a house and maintain a six-foot distance per person, as health officials recommend.
“Yes, we’re using FaceTime. Yes, we’re still meeting people,” Jimmy Tate, owner of Waypoint Real Estate Group, said. “We’re trying to do it all, just smarter.”
His company is primarily active in affluent Central Florida communities like Celebration and Windermere.
Just months ago, his business operated normally. Tate said the company showcased its listings, because meet-and-greets are deemed essential. Waypoint agents set up homes so they were full of natural light, fresh scents and good music during in-person tours for other agents and potential buyers.
“We viewed them all as potential clients,” Tate said. “We’re not doing much of that right now, only for high-ended listings will I let another agent tour.”
Tate and other residential real estate agents are instead conducting showings, walk-throughs and inspections virtually, if possible. FaceTime and e-signature technology are the tools they’re using to make it all doable amid concerns of the coronavirus spreading.
Jeffrey Eddowes, with Century 21 Blue Sky Realty Group, told GrowthSpotter he’s done three showings in the past five days.
“For me, personally, I always took clients in the car with me... now I’m meeting them at the showing.” he said. “We don’t shake hands and we keep a distance.”
While the leg work behind closing a deal is moving to a more digital-friendly platform, the seller mentality that keeps agents going is staying the same.
“Business has slowed down, but I’ve still done deals,” Eddowes said. He adds Celebration, Winter Garden and Windermere markets are still active and he expects to close deals through April.
Thomas Bonner with Regal Real Estate Professionals, the luxury real estate arm of Christie’s International Real Estate, said it’s a buyers market.
“From a seller’s perspective they may be weary of what’s going to be happening,” he said. “They may drop prices, get rid of stock... And with favorable mortgage rates, homes over the next couple of months will be a good bargain.”
Espe Almarza Anderson, a luxury home specialist with Coldwell Banker Realty, said some agents have cancelled open houses and some sellers are not allowing their homes to be shown for 14 days.
“We have many clients asking questions about the future of real estate,” she said. “Personally, I feel that we will bounce back quickly and strong as there are still many people moving to Florida, as well as people wanting to buy in the spring and summer before the next school year.”
The real estate agents agree, one of the hardest obstacles at this time is navigating the world’s current affairs as it relates to their clients and their contracts.
It’s a domino effect, Eddowes said. Home sales may be contingent with closings in other states or other parts of the world that may be shut down.
Tate said he talks with clients daily to try to answer questions and see deals through.
“It’s a different level of hand holding than we’re used to," Tate said. “We don’t need to stop real estate closings. We need to keep going, be creative and be smart.”