This weekend was business as usual for real estate brokers in some of the U.S.’s major cities, despite the ongoing spread and escalating concerns over coronavirus.
In New York City, there was little sign of hesitation at open houses this past weekend, according to agents who spoke to Mansion Global, at least not as a result of coronavirus.
“We did see a little bit of drop-off in our most recent open house, but I don’t really think it is attributable to the coronavirus,” said Steven Gottlieb, an agent at Warburg Realty, who had an open house for an apartment in Manhattan on Sunday. “The first hour was a little bit slow, but then the second hour was pretty busy. Believe it or not, I think this was attributable more to daylight saving time [Sunday morning], as people probably slept in a little bit more than usual.”
This weekend was that home’s second weekend on the market, he said.
“As is typical, we had a very busy first open house,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “It’s natural that there would be some drop off for the second open house.”
However, according to a survey released Monday by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the effects of the virus are not going totally unnoticed in the real estate world. When asked about the impact of coronavirus on the market, 11% of realtors polled by the NAR indicated a reduction in buyer traffic and 7% reported lower seller traffic. NAR didn’t immediately provide details regarding when the survey was conducted.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases globally stood at 113,584 on Monday afternoon, and 3,996 people have died as a result, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S. there were 607 confirmed cases and 22 people have died.
“Most of our open houses were as busy as they were before the virus hysteria,” said Joel Moss, another New York City-based broker at Warburg Realty. “Everyone talks about it, but the only noticeable difference was the lack of shaking hands.”
In Florida, “the panic hasn’t really hit,” according to Liz Hogan, a Miami-based broker with Compass. “We really haven’t seen a disruption.”
But coronavirus “is having crazy consequences,” she said. “I can’t imagine that’s not going to spill over to the real estate market. It just hasn’t happened at the moment.”
Like Ms. Moss, Ms. Hogan has also witnessed the precautions that are being taken to avoid the spread of germs. One potential buyer viewing a home made special efforts to dodge shaking hands and touching anything, she said.
During the showing, “the front door was slightly ajar and he used his elbow to open the front door, almost like a kid with sticky fingers,” she said. “The rest of the time in the house his hands were in his pockets.”
“Even for myself, I was thinking ‘whoa, I’m in these homes, my hands are on the counter tops,’” Ms. Hogan said. “It’s definitely on people’s minds.”
To assuage their client’s fears over contamination, agents have been taking extra precautions at open houses, including upping hygiene protocols and asking potential buyers who are feeling unwell to reschedule, Mansion Global previously reported.
It was a similar story this weekend in Los Angeles. Not only has open house attendance been steady, but some have been downright packed, according to Kurt Wisner, a Compass broker who specializes in northeast Los Angeles.
“In the northeast neighborhoods, particularly Atwater Village, Silver Lake, Echo Park and Eagle Rock, we have seen a steady attendance week after week at our open houses throughout various price points,” Mr. Wisner said.
“We had 90 people come to one open house on Sunday,” he said. The three-bedroom property in Glendale is asking $1 million.
Another property—a four-bedroom house in North Hollywood asking $800,000—had 103 attendees at it’s open house this weekend.
A little further north along the West Coast, San Francisco’s high-end market has seen an increase in showings, according to Joel Goodrich, director of the estates division at Coldwell Banker Global Luxury.
“We are seeing an uptick in several private showings of our properties listed over $10 million, $20 million and $30 million this week,” Mr. Goodrich said. “Because of the stock market turbulence related to coronavirus fears, high-net worth investors are looking at hard assets such as gold and real estate.”
The stock market plunged on Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2,013.76 points, the first time it has lost more than 2,000 points in a session, according to The Wall Street Journal. It was also the largest one-day percentage drop since 2008.
“In times of volatility, clients are drawn to safe havens and U.S. luxury real estate is certainly near the top of the list for that,” he said.