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Realtors boost online services for those looking to buy or sell

By Staff | Mar 26, 2020

Those who feel their search for a new home has been halted due to the COVID-19 outbreak can seek an alternative that puts you right in your dream kitchen, backyard or dining room, virtually.

Local Realtors are reminding prospective buyers that many, if not all of their listings, are available for virtual tours via their websites and they are staying connected for any questions that aren’t available through a computer screen.

Realtors said this is a service they are used to despite logging fewer office hours and are communicating more via phone and web.

“I’ve taken all my listings that have virtual tours — which all of them do — and I’ve put them online,” said Gloria Tate, of Raso Realty. “They’re already there.”

While as of Monday it was just Tate and her brother in the office, the longtime real estate business in Cape Coral, and their agents, who are available to service any buyers.

Tate also said everything was “business as usual” when it came to processing and that they have a comfort level with consumer requests for a more virtual experience.

“Most people shop online now,” Tate said. “This is nothing different, really. People shop online all the time and that’s how they get their information. And then they come to an agent to learn about the neighborhoods, the area, the city, the information that they need that’s not there.”

Multiple Listing Service on Monday eliminated the option for Realtors to advertise for open houses.

“As for me and my office, we feel that it’s not proper (to hold open houses),” Tate said. “It’s not taking all of the necessary precautions.”

Tate is limiting showings to the agent and the buyer(s). She said any showings with the seller still at the home were approached with precautions in place.

“There are people looking. Rates are, not bad,” Tate said.

When it comes to closings and getting papers signed, Tate said that process is “ever-evolving,” and offered some creative solutions.

Tate suggested putting buyers in an isolated, clean room to sign documents while others waited in another.

“They can follow the social distancing rules and still complete the transaction,” Tate said.

The drop-off box at the Lee Clerk of Courts also is open so that documents can be recorded.

“So far, lenders and closing agents like us continue to operate, and we have seen no cancellations due to the virus,” said Eric Feichthaler, a Board Certified Real Estate Attorney and former Cape Coral mayor. “Should the situation deteriorate where lenders and service providers can no longer operate, it may become impossible for buyer or sellers to complete their purchases.”

Feichthaler also provided some tips for buyers and sellers in the market.

“Sellers should be cautious not to sign an addendum allowing for an extension without a date-certain,” he said. “Due to the uncharted waters buyers and sellers are in, if parties are in doubt as to their rights and obligations, they should consult with their Realtors and legal counsel.”

Chris Porter, broker/owner for Cape Realty, said they are not doing any showings at currently occupied homes, only vacant houses.

“We would never bring someone into someone’s occupied house, that would be just too much potential liability,” Porter said. “If the house is empty and the it’s still allowed to be shown, then we can still do a physical showing, with those restrictions that are in place.”

Cape Realty, as are most, is offering buyers an in-depth look from behind their screen.

“We are, of course, offering virtual services to everyone,” Porter said. “Anyone that asks, we will go and Skype. We always do virtual tours on our listings. But if it’s a multiple listing thing, we are going out and doing Facetime showings, taking videos, whatever the customer needs.”

Porter said if someone does decide they want to see a listing in person, they would be practicing social distancing.

“The showing part has been a little hard,” Porter said.

Porter wants buyers and sellers alike to not get discouraged with the outlook for the market while the current health crisis continues to evolve.

“There’s a certain segment that are thinking, ‘The sky is falling’ and ‘This is the beginning of the end,’ but we really don’t think so,” Porter said of the market.

“I would recommend that now is a great time to step in and try to find a great deal, because the pool of buyers has diminished,” Porter said.

Mike Lombardo, broker/owner of Mike Lombardo Team, said his agency is ready to roll with the times.

“You have to adapt to something like this, right?” Lombardo said.

His agency has been getting lots of requests for video conferencing and over-the-phone communication.

“We’ve been accommodating to people’s requests, but we get these requests all the time because so many people who come into our town are transient,” Lombardo said. “We’ll get it to them however they want it.”

Lombardo said he is used to selling homes “virtually,” and that prospective buyers should get home inspections if they are not able to get out to the house location in person, so that they know what’s there before making a decision.

“All information is available at request,” Lombardo said. “The good, the bad, the ugly of the house. Doesn’t do me any good to hide anything. I want you to see everything. I don’t want to hide it from you.”

Lombardo said they are showing homes with current occupants at the seller’s discretion. He also said they are telling sellers with immune issues to talk to their doctors about what to do if the are selling their house when it comes to showings. Lombardo said one man decided to move out of his home while his house is on the market.

“We’re asking people to only do essential things,” Lombardo said. “Everyone has to draw a line for themselves where that is.”

When it comes to entering a house, Lombardo said there’s no guarantee the home is completely germ-free.

“Me, personally? Yeah,” Lombardo said when asked if he’s giving houses more sanitary attention during this time. “But I think when you look at how virus’ operate, I can’t physically go wipe everybody’s things down. Everybody needs to vigilant of washing their hands and wiping down their own (items).

“The vacant houses are definitely getting more activity from buyers, because I think they feel like they have less of a chance of getting something from those houses.”

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