WATERTOWN — The area’s real estate market is being hit by the coronavirus outbreak as the state has restricted Realtors from working outside of their homes.
As of Sunday night, the state is restricting real estate licensees from holding open houses and showing homes to potential buyers, although they can continue to do so online.
“Our business is face-to-face,” said Scott Gerni, a broker with Personalized Real Estate Solutions, Watertown. “So it definitely stops us doing a lot of our business.”
The real estate industry is not considered to be an essential business under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s orders that people must work from their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Licensed Realtors aren’t totally shut down, but “it’s going to be curtailed,” said Lance Evans, executive officer for the Jefferson-Lewis and St. Lawrence Board of Realtors.
The restrictions are coming just as area Realtors were gearing up for the busy spring real estate market, he said. It’s another hit to the economy, he said.
Realtors can finish up on sales that they’ve already started if they are in the hands of lawyers and banks. Cold calls to potential clients also won’t be allowed under the guidelines.
However, the New York Association of Realtors doesn’t know whether the restrictions impact walk-through inspections that occur the day before a closing, he said.
Homes can still be shown online, Mr. Evans said. An owner can take a few photos of their home, fill out paperwork and send the information off to a Realtor, who’s working at home.
As in so many kinds of lines of work these days, video conferencing will become more of a tool for licensed Realtors, he said.
Mr. Evans is getting “some mixed signals” from the state Realtors association about home inspections and appraisal and whether that work can continue.
Lisa A. Ruggiero, a licensed broker and owner of Hefferon Real Estate, Watertown, is among those who have been left in limbo.
“I have sales that are pending and can’t get answers from lenders as to what the status is,” she said. “One buyer was laid off so financing will be delayed until he goes back to work.”
The news about the restrictions will have a domino effect on the economy. With the housing market drying up, moving companies will lose business because people won’t be needing them to move them into their new homes, Mr. Evans said.
Property managers also won’t be able to show apartments to potential tenants because of the impact from the pandemic, he said.
Mr. Gerni plans to sort out some of the pending issues with the nine real estate agents who work for Personalized Real Estate Solutions. He hopes that the restrictions won’t last long.
On Tuesday morning, Mr. Gerni was preparing for that time again. He was in his basement putting together real estate lawn signs so his agents will be ready when that time comes.