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Buying, Selling, & Showing Apartments During COVID NYC Industry Players Are Adapting—and Optimistic

As New York continues its efforts to reopen its economy as safely as possible amid the continuing (and in many states, intensifying) COVID-19 crisis, there is concern about what the residential housing market—which had experienced a decline even before the pandemic hit, largely due to changes in tax and conversion regulations, and overbuilding in the higher-end sector—will do. Will New York City see a recovery from what many already acknowledged was a soft market? How are brokers and real estate firms adapting to the demands of a public health crisis that all indicators suggest will be with us for the foreseeable future? The cross section of brokers polled for this story are hopeful about the market and committed to making the necessary adjustments to do business in a wildly different landscape from mere months ago.

Indicators

According to Jared Antin, director of sales at Manhattan-based brokerage firm Elegran, “Over the last four weeks, we have seen steady increases in the amount of new for-sale inventory. I expect those interested in selling their apartments to return to or come to market in the next several weeks. Going forward, and considering safety protocols, each seller should have a conversation with their broker about the showing procedures and policies to ensure that they protect their own health and safety, and that of all visitors.

“Sellers who don’t need to sell right away may wait until the pandemic subsides further and the market stabilizes,” Antin continues. “Those who have been eager to sell for the last three months probably won’t wait to come to market, and will likely price their homes to sell quickly.” 

Overall, and in terms of the near future, Antin adds, “We expect there will be a surge of real estate activity now that we are in Phase Two. As witnessed in many other urban markets after the lockdown ended, there was a strong uptick in listings, appointments, and contracts being signed. Being confined to your apartment for three months is a good litmus test for whether you like your home, or crave something different or bigger. I believe that this summer will be a convergence of the spring, summer, and fall markets. Interest rates being at or near all-time lows certainly helps create additional incentive for qualified buyers.”

Ariela Heilman, a broker with Halstead in their Harlem office, concurs. “Interest is bubbling as we enter Phase Two. We hope the buyers will honor the new no-open-house reality and open their financial kimonos in order to make an in-person appointment. We had multiple offers on a tenant-occupied Brooklyn multi-unit, sight unseen. We also anticipate listings continuing to come to market now that the gates have opened. Frankly, I see pent-up demand accelerating sales over the next two months. Buyers who were preparing to buy and are still fortunate enough to be employed are moving forward with their plans. We are hoping for more inventory now in Phase Two, and less competition. For sellers, the need to sell remains and is now three months more urgent. Online search engines report a 30% rise in buyer engagement.

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