PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Spring is usually the busy season when it comes to real estate. But in the age of COVID-19 and social distancing, house hunting just isn’t the same, especially in Pennsylvania.
Realtors, home buyers and sellers are all relying on technology more these days.
Some realtors are using drones to show off property at a distance. These come in handy, as virtual tours are playing a key role for Pennsylvania realtors.
“This is in the Linwood section of the township,” realtor Erica Deuschle said as she did virtual tour. “A great center home, brick colonial.”
This is typically where one will spot Deuschle these days — in front of a computer screen, guiding potential house hunters on virtual tours.
After 12 years as a realtor in Haverford, the coronavirus pandemic is providing some memorable firsts.
“This is my first virtual open house, so I appreciate the turnout,” Deuschle said.
Deuschle’s was just one of more than 150 virtual open houses hosted by Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach this past Sunday. More than 1,300 virtual guests took part.
“This is an all-new way of doing business,” Deuschle said.
Especially so in Pennsylvania where real estate isn’t considered an essential business, even though it provides shelter. That means no in-person open houses or even private showings. An obstacle that has left many seemingly stuck in purgatory.
“Our numbers are certainly down from where they were, big time, but when we can hit the ground running, things are going to explode. I have 25 signed listing contracts, people who are ready to list their homes and I have just as many buyers,” Deuschle said.
Homeowner Michelle Baldino is ready to list her home and buy a new one.
“We intended to list in February, early March and then everything changed with the pandemic,” Baldino said. “We’re grateful that we’re not in a position that it’s now or never. But it was disappointing.”
Not everyone though has that flexibility.
Deuschle even sold a home recently to someone who never stepped foot inside but just couldn’t wait.
“I’ve never been in the home. No one has been in this home but it went under contract right away,” Deuschle said.
According to the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales fell nearly 21% in March. The organization is now predicting total home sales for the year will drop 14%.
But Deuschle is optimistic the market will bounce back. With pent-up demand, she is hoping for a big summer and fall.
“It’s the spring real estate market I hope up until the holidays,” Deuschle said.
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors has pushed hard for state lawmakers to allow in-person real estate services to resume. House bill 24-12, which would do just that, passed the House earlier this week.
It now heads to the Senate.
Meantime, the governor’s office released the following statement:
“The governor’s order was made with the health and safety of Pennsylvanians as first priority and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Regarding real estate operations, in-person activities such as inspections, appraisals, final walk-throughs, and in-person Title Insurance activities are permitted for only those residential real estate transactions which, with respect to existing homes, were under contract (signed) prior to the date of the March 18th, 2020, or, with respect to new construction, which were under a previously executed contract that provides for closing and delivery to the customer on or after March 18th, 2020. More information on the limited circumstances as authorized in guidance issued by the Department of State can be found here and in questions 39-41 in the FAQs,” Deputy Director of Communications Rachel Wrigley with the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development said.
In the meantime, realtors say they do not expect home values to fall.