Coronavirus tips: Real estate agents make changes to keep client safe during COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Real estate is still considered an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic, and agents are transforming their industry to protect the buyer, the seller and everyone in between.

There's a lot of close, face-to-face interaction when it comes to buying and selling a home. But in the wake of a pandemic, real estate agents said creativity and innovation is the only way to get the deal done safely.

From 3-D tours to virtual showings on Facetime and video chats, agents across the Chicago area said the transition hasn't necessarily been a cake walk but it's doable to keep their clients safe.

"My grandpa started it in 1951," said Larry Reedy, owner of LW Reedy in Elmhurst and a third-generation real estate agent. "We're a big firm but we very much operate like family."

The Reedys have been selling homes for decades, but nothing could have prepared them for something like this.

"There's so many people and vendors involved in a particular deal, from the minute you list to the minute you close: photographers, inspectors, lenders, appraisers, moving companies, attorneys, so we're all adjusting to the new normal right now," he said.

One of the biggest changes Reedy has seen is drive by appraisals, where an appraiser takes pictures from the sidewalk or even their car and uses software, algorithms and data to establish an estimated value of the property.

"We have attorneys, sometimes they are waiting in their car to deliver paperwork, keys are being exchanged by lockbox codes," Reedy said.

Another factor to consider: home inspections.

"Inspections still need to be done. It's an important part of the process," he said.

Reedy said many of his clients have new stipulations, where only one inspector is allowed inside their home and they're required to wear masks, gloves and even shoe coverings.

The same are required for prospective buyers who would rather see the home in person.

Reedy said even the closing table, which is arguably the most exciting part of the real estate process, is different now.

Whereas typically you'd have a table full of both realtors, both attorneys, the closer, the buyers and the sellers, now in many cases only two or three people are allowed inside to seal the deal.

Agents and industry leaders are still getting used to the changes.

"Your first Zoom tour is a little awkward, but after that you're walking through the house, you're sharing information," Reedy said.

Another big question being asked: is this a good time to buy a home?

Real estate experts said interest rates have been low across the board and inventory is high, but because of the state of the economy people truly have to consider what makes the most sense for their family during this pandemic.
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