Photo: Edward Headington


Covid is slowly killing the open house

They used to be the main way that realtors sold properties. Now, realtors can do without.

This year, 10% of buyers purchased homes without physically seeing them, the National Association of Realtors reported. The Covid-19 Delta variant could keep people indoors even longer. Many buyers are scheduling private visits or taking virtual tours. The Escape Home’s Nancy Trejos takes a look.

“The pandemic has accelerated a shift to more tech-driven solutions for touring homes, such as live video tours or virtual 3D tours,” said Beatrice de Jong, Consumer Trends Expert at Opendoor and a broker associate based in Los Angeles. “Plus, when buyers find a home they love, they can handle the offer and transaction completely online.”

Walter Perschbacher, vice president of Greenridge Realty, said more people are buying properties without seeing them in person.

“There has been an increase in buyers purchasing homes they have only seen virtually,” he said. “High Definition Interior photography, aerial drone photography, virtual staging, and 3D virtual tours have all helped in giving the buyers a good feeling for the home from a virtual setting.  Part of this increase is due to the pandemic.”

The other factor? “We are currently in a strong seller’s market,” he said. “This market dynamic forces buyers to make decisions quickly and they may not have time to view the home in person prior to making an offer.”

And just because open houses have gone virtual doesn’t mean homes don’t need to be staged. In fact, presentation is more important than ever.

“People know if it’s not lived in and it’s staged, it will sell faster because it’s turnkey and nobody has to put on their vision goggles to overlook all of the personal photos or an accent wall,” said Ana Scholar, who owns a home staging and color consulting business in New Jersey.

She estimates she has staged about 30% more homes in the past year than in pre-pandemic times.

Betsy Ronel, a licensed real estate salesperson with Compass in Westchester County, NY, said local rules dictated what she and her colleagues could do. Open houses were not permitted for a while in New York. They are now, but realtors like her remain careful.

“Now in my market, we are back to open houses, but only one customer per floor, and we offer masks and shoe coverings,” she said. “As of today, masks are not required unless the sellers require them, but nine out of 10 buyers, and most agents, wear them out of respect. Some sellers are comfortable with open houses, especially if they are no longer living in the house. Others are not at all,” she continued. “And others require face coverings and limited numbers of people in the house. It’s very personal, and we respect all choices, as we are in unprecedented times. The open houses will be affected as long as this virus is still out there and mutating. We will have to take precautions until as many people who can get vaccinated, do.”

What does the future behold? De Jong says: “Virtual tours and private tours are here to stay.”

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