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March 18, 2020, 10:32 a.m. EDT

Redfin, Re/Max and other brokerage firms cancel open houses as coronavirus hits the real-estate industry

‘The coronavirus has just made the future we’ve been preparing for come sooner,’ Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said in a blog post

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By Jacob Passy


Redfin
Redfin is suspending open houses and promoting virtual tours as the coronavirus outbreak complicates the real-estate process.

Brokerage firms are cancelling open houses and promoting virtual tours of homes as buyers and sellers alike become concerned about contracting the novel coronavirus through the real-estate process.

National real estate brokerage Redfin /zigman2/quotes/203726414/composite RDFN +2.15% is cancelling future open houses, the company announced Monday. The company is also limiting in-person tours of its homes to two customers per tour.

Re/Max /zigman2/quotes/205936106/composite RMAX -0.04%  is also advising its agents not to hold open houses at this time. “To support government and health agency efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, we encourage every member of the organization — including agents, brokers, managers and staff — to adhere to conditions set forth in your communities,” Re/Max CEO Adam Contos told employees. “We also recommend you consider not holding open houses for the time being. This is a global emergency, and everyone must take it seriously.”

Home buyers and sellers have grown wary of open houses out of fear of catching or spreading the novel coronavirus, and several cities are under orders from authorities to avoid all but essential trips out of the house and keep six feet away from other people. Last weekend, average attendance at open houses in Manhattan dropped to the lowest level so far this year, according to a weekly report put out by Halstead Real Estate. Open houses only had 4.1 visitors on average, down from 5.6 just two weeks earlier.

Read more: The Fed cut interest rates to zero, but don’t expect to see 0% mortgages anytime soon

For in-person tours, Redfin will not allow anyone to visit a home who has cold or flu symptoms. If a Redfin agent has a cough or cold symptoms, the company will have another agent handle the tour.

Additionally, agents have been instructed not to shake hands with customers and to maintain six feet of distance from clients during the tour. When clients visit homes, they will not be permitted to enter small bathrooms or crawl spaces.

The company is emphasizing its virtual touring options as it cancels open houses. “The coronavirus has just made the future we’ve been preparing for come sooner,” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said in a blog post announcing the coronavirus policy.

Redfin already publishes interactive, three-dimensional scans of all homes listed by Redfin agents. The company will also allow prospective buyers to tour homes listed by other brokerages in a virtual fashion through a video chat with a Redfin agent.

“On a video-chat tour, a Redfin agent broadcasts what we see on a walk-through of the home, responding to your requests to pan left or zoom in,” Kellman said. “Schedule the tour as before, but follow the online prompts to ask for a video-chat tour.”

Read more: U.S. cities temporarily ban evictions as coronavirus outbreak worsens

Other brokerage firms are also promoting virtual tours as an alternative to the traditional open house. “In light of the current conditions, we feel conducting virtual home tours is the best way forward,” Darryl Frost, spokesman for Keller Williams, told MarketWatch, noting that the company is advising agents on the best practices for virtual showings.

“Agents have been conducting virtual home tours in various forms for decades,” Frost said. “It’s nothing new and now the technology to do so has only continued to get better and less expensive.”

(MarketWatch reached out to other major brokerage firms including Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices /zigman2/quotes/208872451/composite BRK.A +0.58% , Realogy /zigman2/quotes/201151464/composite RLGY +5.39%  on their planning around the coronavirus, but did not immediately receive responses.)

/zigman2/quotes/203726414/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 29.99
+0.63 +2.15%
Volume: 2.02M
May 29, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$2.95 billion
Rev. per Employee
$162,686
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/205936106/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 27.99
-0.01 -0.04%
Volume: 155,966
May 29, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
21.51
Dividend Yield
3.14%
Market Cap
$507.29 million
Rev. per Employee
$425,252
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/208872451/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 278,640
+1,605 +0.58%
Volume: 358.00
May 29, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
46.57
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$451.40 billion
Rev. per Employee
$637,113
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/201151464/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 6.06
+0.31 +5.39%
Volume: 3.05M
May 29, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
0.00%
Market Cap
$699.15 million
Rev. per Employee
$533,246
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Jacob Passy is a personal-finance reporter for MarketWatch and is based in New York.

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