- The Washington Times
Sunday, April 19, 2020

The coronavirus shutdown has hit the real estate market hard with new listings plunging this year during what should be the peak season for home shopping.

New home listings were down 27% nationwide in the first week of April compared to a year ago, with the cities of Detroit, Pittsburgh and New York most affected by the slowdown, according to a report by online real estate database Zillow.

At the beginning of March, the market appeared to bloom with home values accelerating for the first time in about two years. Zillow’s data showed 17% more listings on March 1 than last year.

All that has changed with states issuing stay-at-home orders and shuttering businesses.

States such as Florida and New York have designated real estate as an “essential” service, but social distancing measures forced agents to become more creative in using technology to bring home shopping online for people sitting at home.

Audrey Ross, who runs a real estate firm in South Florida, said conducting virtual open houses hasn’t been all that bad.

“It seems to be going rather well actually,” she told The Washington Times. “It is interesting because it is just doing business in a totally different way.”

Ms. Ross, who has been in the industry for several decades selling multi-million-dollar properties, said before the pandemic, an open house visited by 10 people on a Sunday would be deemed a great success.

Now virtual tours, where an agent walks through the property in a video posted online, can get two dozen views.

A virtual tour Ms. Ross conducted this month had 30 people watching the video at any given time.

“You do get quite a lot more exposure,” Ms. Ross said, though she noted that the market is slower than usual.

In Colorado, real estate agents are now barred from entering homes if the owners still occupy it.

Homeowners who wish to sell their property can produce walk-through videos themselves, according to local reports.

Chris Grund, a realtor with listings.com, said the shutdown order from Democratic Gov. Jared Polis is killing the real estate market.

“Putting the nail in the coffin of our industry right now,” he told TheDenver Channel.

Meanwhile, construction on new homes dropped 22% in March from February, although it was still 1.4% higher than in March 2019, the Commerce Department reported last week.

There was also a 6.8% drop in permits to begin construction last month.

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