Brokers agreed that the focus on client comfort and safety is more important than ever, but during Phase 2 and possibly beyond it, the consideration of everyone involved in a single listing may be a little tricky to handle. For in-person showings, agents will not only have to communicate with the buyer and seller, but also building managers or co-op and condo boards, as many buildings will have their own rules and coronavirus protocols.
For the foreseeable future, virtual walk-throughs will probably remain a popular option. As the only way to do business during the pandemic, many agencies touted them as the wave of the future. Candace Adams, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York, New England and Westchester Properties, said in-person showings will eventually become the second and third step, not the first. “Everyone’s time is so valuable today,” she said. “Virtual tours will be a forever thing for us going forward.”
Sotheby’s International Realty has featured 3-D tours and virtual reality experiences on its website since 2016. Cathy Taub, a top Sotheby’s broker in Manhattan, said she has been getting more questions about virtual tours than ever before. “Real estate has always been eye candy,” she said, “but during this time when we’ve all been sheltering at home, people have been browsing nonstop.”
Even developers realize the benefit of boosting their online presence. Before leasing began, Sam Charney, of Charney Companies, and Nicholas Silvers, of Tavros Holdings, had already begun working with Listing 3-D, a start-up used by Corcoran, Douglas Elliman and Compass, among other agencies, to develop an online marketing tool for The Dime, a rental building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Plans to welcome potential clients on April 1 were pushed back to May 18 because of the coronavirus, but both men now see the timing as fortuitous.
“I think our eyes were opened a little bit to what the market looks like due to Covid,” said Mr. Charney. “For a rental, we wouldn’t have thought to do virtual tours because we were originally trying to attract locals, but recently we’ve seen a lot of interest from people out-of-state and other countries.”
The Dime this week opened its on-site leasing office, allowing prospective renters to schedule socially distanced tours. Those who first previewed the building online can now walk through to feel out what Mr. Silvers described as an easy-to-use and touchless experience: doors are outfitted with keyless entry technology; tenants have access to a smart package room and a hands-free storage option, as well as a video intercom viewed through their smartphones.