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COVID-19 Restrictions Cuts Out The ‘Lookie-Loos’

The New York City real estate market has been in flux for months, but the safeguards created to protect homebuyers, agents and sellers from the novel coronavirus has created a silver lining — they’ve decreased the number of so-called “lookie loos,” the term for people who are more interested in touring a property than actually buying it.

Before viewing a property in New York City, agents need to have their clients complete questionnaires and waivers before they can view a property. Some buildings require buyers to fill out more forms once they come inside. The result, brokers say, is that they’re spending more time with higher-quality sales prospects.

“Many people are limiting the places they are touring in order to reduce potential exposure to COVID, so deciding to randomly go see an apartment, when you are not actually in the market for a home, is not as common these days, especially given that one cannot just show up to an open house,” says Christopher Totaro, an agent with Warburg Realty.

Totaro takes things a step further and requests a financial statement from the Real Estate Board of New York before showing a space

“If you are risking COVID exposure and taking significant steps to stay safe, including wiping down surfaces in a home, you should be sure the buyer can afford to make the purchase,” Totaro says. 

The new requirements has also forced the industry to go paperless, and agent Mary Hall Mayer of Warburg Realty thinks technology has made the showing process easier.

“My process is such that one sets up the COVID liability and health questionnaire forms, along with the new Fair Housing form, in iCloud,” Hall Mayer says. “It’s a snap to personalize those forms for the buyer and or their broker, and then upload them and send from DocuSign
. Then, I send a separate email setting a deadline as to when I need to have the forms returned for the showing to proceed, along with a reminder to wear a mask. Everyone thus far has returned the forms immediately. As for a building’s individualized forms, one can usually do that in the lobby of the building, as most have an area set aside. It only takes a minute.”

The added requirements do add some complications, however.

Broker Susan Abrams of Warburg Realty says the extra barriers from buildings, including 24-hour advanced notice and submission of signed building forms to the managing agent of the building, eliminates potential buyers who schedule an appointment on a Friday for the upcoming weekend.

“The managing agents don’t work on the weekend, and brokers and buyers are active on the weekend, thus making it difficult to accommodate Friday and weekend showing requests,” Abrams says. “Many buyers work during business hours and don’t plan ahead to view an apartment. Often, you get requests on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and we are unable to accommodate those requests, many of which can only be accommodated on weekends. Only select buildings require their own forms and 24 hours’ notice, and those buildings are deterring buyers in an already-challenged market.”

Steven Goldschmidt, senior vice president, CIO, and director of sales at Warburg thinks we’ve ushered in a “new normal” in real estate.

“You can forget about public open houses, as those won’t be happening for a long time because each individual showing needs to be scheduled and curated, and forms need to be filled out,” Goldschmidt says. “That is a huge paradigm shift in terms of how residential real estate is sold.”

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