Leonard Steinberg, the chief evangelist at Compass, says the quicker the virus is contained, the better it will be for the housing market.

Leonard Steinberg, one of the top names in luxury real estate in New York City and the chief evangelist at Compass, called for a two-week moratorium on home showings on his Instagram page over the weekend, as first reported Sunday by The Real Deal. 

Leonard Steinberg | Photo credit: Compass

“We don’t know enough yet to know what comes next, but what we do know for sure is that mass testing, restricting human contact combined with patience work,” Steinberg posted. “We also know that you may be asymptomatic — yet infected and contagious — and for this reason alone we need to be unselfish and be certain not to expose this virus to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.”

“With this in mind, I firmly believe we should cease all physical property showings and open houses – mostly in the hardest-hit areas — for at least the next two weeks and reassess periodically.”

Steinberg is the first in New York City to publicly call for a total stop to house showings, at least for two weeks. It comes at a time when many brokerages are asking agents to meet virtually, if possible. Steinberg also addressed the economic impact of the virus — which grows in numbers by the day — could have on the housing market.

“Economically, there is no way to know the full impact of this virus until we have an end in sight,” Steinberg said. “The sooner the better.”

“The longer this ensues, the greater the chance of a recession,” Steinberg added. “The quicker it is contained the better.”

Historically, the industry has loved low-interest rates — which dropped to 0-0.25 percent over the weekend — and massive government stimulus, Steinberg said.

“Real estate markets also benefit from wait-and-see buyer build-up,” Steinberg said. “Sometimes they bounce back passionately after these waiting periods.”

Steinberg’s remarks come from New York City, which has followed the lead of others like Los Angeles, Seattle, the state of Ohio, in closing schools for an undetermined period and closing nonessential services like bars, restaurants, theaters and event spaces.

The entire real estate industry is yet to shut down, however. Monday morning, star agent and reality TV show personality Ryan Serhant posted an Instagram video of heading into the office.

“Most showings are on hold, business has come to kind of a standstill,” Serhant said. “We are still active, we are still working.”

In an internal memo obtained by Inman, Rory Golod, the New York region president for Compass, calls for all agents to suspend open houses.

Read the full memo below:

New York Region Agents,

I hope all of you are hanging in there and staying safe. This is a challenging time and one that will continue to test our ability to stay calm and resolute as we all aim to help slow the spread of this virus. I encourage everyone to continue to take precautions and heed the advice we are all being given.

Throughout the coming days and weeks, we will be sharing a lot of information with all of such as updates as we learn more, advice for working with clients and best practices from agents around the country of how they are coping with this. Myself and Elizabeth Ann Stribling will also be communicating with the leaders of all of the firms in the region multiple times per week to make sure we are working together to ensure the safety and service of our agents and their clients.

I wanted to follow up on the email below, that was sent to all of you from Dennis McCarthy, one of our Sales Managers in Brooklyn. It outlines our recommendation against holding open houses given the current circumstances. While this is ultimately the decision of your seller, we advise against having open houses since it forces groups of people to congregate in small spaces.

As far as private showings, this is at the discretion of you and your client. When showing homes to individual people, please make sure to take all diligent precautions. Those precautions include:

  • Do not show the home to multiple people at once;
  • Make sure to not get too close to those in the home and attempt to stay at least 6 feet from them when possible;
  • Advise people in the home to not touch anything or come into contact with the objects in the home;
  • Ask those coming into the home to immediately wash their hands or provide them with disinfectant when they arrive.

Many agents are currently hosting “virtual showings” by touring the property while on video chat on their phone (such as FaceTime on your iPhone) so the clients can experience it as if they were there. Robert will be sharing more on this concept in his bi-weekly email tomorrow.

I encourage all of you to reach out to your clients and speak with them to gauge what they want and how they are feeling. Your guidance and advice will be incredibly valuable to them during this time. If you are in New York, Brooklyn or Queens, buildings will potentially be issuing their own guidance on what they are requiring in their properties (if they have not done so yet) so please be on the lookout for that information as that will inform how you can proceed.

As we continue to get guidance from the CDC and local governments we will keep everyone updated. Should you have any questions please contact your sales manager. Stay safe, stay connected and stay positive.

Best,
Rory

Email Patrick Kearns

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