Open houses close due to coronavirus concerns

A regional real estate group has halted open houses due to coronavirus concerns and regulations.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS), based in Kirkland, works with 30,000 brokers in the state of Washington. The group organizes real estate activities in 23 counties, including King County.

NWMLS announced March 17 the temporary disablement of the public and broker open house features within its online multiple listing service until at least March 31. No one will be able to input or browse open house information — from the public or as a broker — in the database, and open house information will not appear on the websites of member real estate brokers.

This comes after recent declarations from the governor’s office prohibiting social gatherings of more than 50 people and closing all bars and restaurants except for takeout. A press release noted the NWMLS decision is, “strongly supported by the governor’s office.”

“The real estate market in Washington remains strong. Many brokers are conducting virtual showings for clients and hosting virtual open houses for potential buyers,” the release stated. “In addition to property photos, many listings have virtual tours where potential buyers can view videos and even remotely ‘walk-through’ the property. Brokers also are continuing to conduct in-person showings, while remaining cognizant of social distancing recommendations.”

The group also offers a variety of tools ranging from online forms and mobile applications to scheduling and transaction management.

John L. Scott

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, headquartered in Bellevue, said his company is recommending all its brokers in the 23 counties served by NWMLS cease scheduling and hosting open houses until at least March 31. Information found on home search websites is pulled from the NWMLS database, so it will not be possible for all area brokers to share information about an open house event, he said.

Scott noted that the processes for buying and selling of homes has changed over the years with technology. Before driving by or setting foot on a property, many buyers today first search for homes on a real estate company’s website or mobile app.

“Now, sellers can share a wealth of information online about their home, and when a buyer is interested, they could drive by the house to see if they’d like to set up a private showing with their broker associate,” Scott said.

Before the NWMLS announcement, John L. Scott already had been working with brokers regarding coronavirus best practices, encouraging virtual tour viewing and small weekend showcasing that incorporate social distancing but still allow potential buyers the opportunity to walk through their property of interest.

“To help market the home for their sellers in this uncertain time, we are recommending individual showings by appointment. For these private showings, sellers can work with their broker to screen potential buyers. These showings by appointment are intended for healthy, motivated, capable and serious buyers,” Scott said.

Scott said his company has been working across all departments and communicating with office leaders and brokers to discuss the current situation and anticipate future needs.

“Above all, we are committed to ensuring our plans and recommendations are in full alignment with the Department of Health guidelines, CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Northwest MLS and our brokers. Buyer demand still remains extremely strong locally, so it’s our goal to continue serving the needs of our clients, while incorporating best practices to reduce the spread of coronavirus,” Scott said.

He echoed the NWMLS sentiment that little impacts to the real estate market as a result of coronavirus have been seen.

“At this point, demand remains strong across our footprint. So far, we have seen a continuation of the robust spring market with low inventory and as a result have seen little effect on how quickly a home sells, which does put pressure on buyers to see homes and make offers on homes that pique their interest,” Scott said. “We hope the steps we take now will help meet the strong demand we are still seeing. We send our prayers and love to those who have been affected by the coronavirus in our local communities and around the world.”

Windermere

Shelley Rossi, vice president of communications for Windermere Real Estate, headquartered in Seattle, said that Windermere was one of the companies that recommended NWMLS make this decision.

She said they have advised all of their agents not to hold open houses. The company can only strongly encourage they do so, but cannot mandate they cease since they are all independent contractors.

She said agents have been finding other ways to help their buyers look at homes, including private showings and virtual tours.

She also agreed with Scott and NWMLS that business is good, including on the Eastside.

“I can tell you our agents are busy; homes are still being bought and sold at a healthy pace,” she said in an email.

During the week of March 16 in a single day on the Eastside, they had 51 new listings posted and 23 properties that went from active to pending status.

NWMLS said in its press release that it will, “continue to look for ways to support its member real estate brokers, while at the same time, continue to follow and encourage others to follow the guidelines from public health officials.”

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