Real estate deemed essential but limited to virtual home tours

Albany County

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Empire State Development agency said while real estate has been deemed essential, that does not necessarily mean business as usual.

ESD released a statement that said in part: 

“Business can only be conducted if social distancing and other public health protocols are followed and all must be doing everything they can to help stop the spread. For real estate, that means brokers can only transact business in their offices or show properties virtually, and anything else is off limits.”

The agency added that appraisers/inspectors are able to visit properties for inspection.

Brian Sinkoff, a local real estate agent said he’s not comfortable selling a home without showing it in person. “Buying a house is hard enough when you’re in person. Sometimes you see the house two or three times. For someone to buy a house based on pictures on the internet, I have a real hard time with that in terms of doing your best for your client whether it’s your seller client or buyer client. I don’t really think you’re doing your job as a real estate agent,” said Sinkoff.

Sinkoff said there’s also a number of risks for both the buyer and seller that come with purchasing a property sight unseen. He said many attorneys will likely put a clause in their contract anyway that the sale is contingent upon being able to see the home in person once the pandemic is over. “They’re going to be looking for reasons not to buy. Is the bathroom too close to the kitchen? Is there a funky musty smell in the basement,” said Sinkoff.

Ryan Clark, branch manager and associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Blake Realtors, said while it’s not the most ideal situation, he’s handling it on a client by client basis.  “If they’re not 100% comfortable with a virtual tour then this is not the product for them, this is not the time for them. If they are comfortable with virtual tours then we will do everything in our power to make sure this transaction goes as smooth as possible and what they see on tour is what they get,” said Clark.

Clark said he’s reducing his own risk of exposure by not going inside the home and instead using recorded video conferences created by the seller to provide a tour. “I will navigate the seller to walk throughout their house. I’ll tell them to pause at certain times and we just have to do it that way, having the homeowner helping us out,” said Clark.

Sinkoff said for now, he’s pressing pause on buying and selling. Instead he is spending his time checking in on clients and updating his website. “I think we’re all nervous, we’re all scared, we don’t know when this is going to end and I think just getting a phone call to say hello, to say how are you doing, to me, is far more important right now than marketing a home and selling a home in this climate,” said Sinkoff.

“For all we know, a client might have to sell and move because of a job, they might have to move because of military, or get out of a bad situation, a divorce, so we have to continue to work, we just have to work smarter,” said Clark.

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