"In my 54 years of being in the real estate business, I have never seen anything remotely like our current situation," RE/MAX associate broker Jack Chivers said in an email to the Tribune Friday, April 3.

As they head into the busiest time of the year for buying and selling homes, real estate agents aren't hosting open houses. Buyers can't bring their whole families into homes that are for sale, looking into rooms and imagining themselves living there. Instead, agents are encouraged to host the first showing virtually.

The change comes after Gov. Tim Walz's order, which deemed real estate workers as essential, as "there are always people that need to move versus want to move," said Alexis Peters in a phone interview on Thursday, April 2. Like other essential workers, real estate agents also had to adjust their job to follow the COVID-19 guidelines as well as seller's wishes.

"We got direction from the state association (of realtors)," said Peters, who is president of the Lakes Country Association of Realtors. "They really want us to limit people, prioritize the virtual showings, limit the amount of in-person meetings."

Alexis Peters, president of the Lakes Country Association of Realtors. (Courtesy photo)
Alexis Peters, president of the Lakes Country Association of Realtors. (Courtesy photo)

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Virtual showing first, in-person second

"The main thing is respecting the seller's wishes right now," Peters said.

If a seller is willing to sell right now, each agent or brokerage may do something different for the first home showing. Peters has used video chat platforms, walking through the home for sale while interested buyers watch and ask questions about it.

When a client has a high amount of interest in a home, the agents can do a small in-person showing of the home to help them decide. Each agent and brokerage will follow the social distancing guidelines and may take different precautions in addition to that, but it's ultimately up to the seller's discretion, Peters said.

Lynette Conmy, an associate broker at RE/MAX Lakes Region, said in an email that they ask the homeowners to turn on all lights and open all doors to limit touching. The agents aren't bringing the buyers to the home in their personal vehicles and are only letting two buyers inside, with no children, if at all possible.

"When we tour the home, we will wipe down areas that are touched with a disinfectant," Conmy added. "We practice social distancing and ask them to sign a COVID-19 waiver ... If possible, contracts are signed digitally."

Even with the coronavirus changing showings and adding guidelines, there's an increased demand for real estate investments, Chivers said.

"Interest rates are freakishly low," he said. "My take is that once we are over this COVID-19 quarantine, business is going to boom."

Peters agreed, saying that the rates are the "silver lining" right now. A spike in sales is predicted to happen after the quarantine, she said, so now is the time to take advantage of it.