The multiple listing service has disabled the open house feature in its tech platform, meaning agents won’t be able to input, search or view open houses.

Northwest MLS (NWMLS), a Washington-based multiple listing service that serves more than 30,000 real estate professionals, announced Monday that it was disabling its open house features in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The move was announced in an email explaining that, in light of the virus, “NWMLS has made the difficult decision to temporarily disable the public and broker open house feature” in the Matrix technology platform the organization uses. The email states that the open house features will remain disabled” until at least March 31. As a result, “brokers will not be able to input, search, or view public or broker open house information in Matrix.”

The move may largely end open houses for the time being across a major portion of Washington state that includes high-profile, high-price cities such as Seattle. In total, NWMLS serves 23 counties including King and Snohomish. Significantly, Washington was the first state to report cases of coronavirus in the U.S., and it has since been described as “ground zero” for the spread of the illness.

Glenn Kelman, CEO of Seattle-based Redfin, said last week that the Seattle market was already being impacted by the coronavirus, though a number of area agents told Inman that their business, at least, remained strong.

In its email, NWMLS said that the decision to disable the open house feature was “strongly supported” by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to Inman’s request for comment Monday.

However, NWMLS’ announcement came just hours after a spokesperson for Seattle-based Windermere Real Estate told Inman that the company hoped Inslee would ban open houses during the coronavirus outbreak. Windermere CEO Geoff Wood asked Inslee for a ban Monday morning, and the company was actively telling its agents not to hold open houses.

Turn out at open houses overall across the U.S. last weekend was mixed. Some agents told Inman Monday that they saw normal traffic, while other said fewer people showed up, or that the open houses were canceled before they happened. However, a number of real estate professionals also said the ongoing coronavirus situation will likely soon push open houses into something of a temporary, short-term extinction.

The move by NWMLS represents possibly the first and boldest step in that direction by a multiple listing service. It came the same day that the stock market had its second worst day in history, and on the same afternoon President Trump said the coronavirus outbreak could last until August.

NWMLS did not immediately respond to Inman’s request for additional information Monday evening. However, the multiple listing service did say in its announcement email that it plans to “contact all listing brokers who have a scheduled open house to let them know it has been removed from Matrix.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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