With New York City likely to enter phase two of its re-opening plan next week — despite some mixed messaging from Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio — real estate agents and brokers are set to return to at least some semblance of normalcy. Agents that spoke with Inman are taking myriad approaches to going back to work.
To give some guidance, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), in early June, released six sets of best practices guidelines, concerning office leasing, retail leasing, commercial sales, residential sales, residential leasing and new construction leasing and sales. James Whelan, REBNY’s president, serves on Cuomo’s New York Forward reopening advisory board and Mayor de Blasio’s reopening advisory council for the construction and real estate sector.
“REBNY has taken the lead to work closely with stakeholders across various sectors to tailor these step-by-step guidelines, allowing the real estate community and the public to safely resume the leasing and sales transactions that keep New York City’s economic engine running,” Whelan said in a statement.
Several agents who spoke with Inman won’t return to open houses right away, and plan to only hold showings by appointment.
“Going forward, I am inclined to do one-off showings only, There seems to be no point in creating an unnecessary risk,” Lisa Camillieri, a broker with Warburg Realty, said. “Also, it is hard to imagine that buyers will want to view via open house anymore (or at least until a vaccine), considering that they will potentially come into contact with a lot of people.”
“I think that one-on-one showings, as much virtual as possible, and sanitizing after all showings should be mandatory but the rest of the list should remain strong recommendations,” Camillieri said.
One of REBNY’s suggestions that a number of brokers took exception to was the idea of showings consisting of only the selling broker and buyers.
“I don’t think it is realistic for a buyer to come without their broker,” Lisa Chajet, a broker with Warburg Realty, said. “What’s the point? The broker is the advisor.”
Sheila Trichter, a broker with Warburg Realty, also criticized the decision. She said in most cases the second after leaving a showing, the client will share their thoughts, then immediately ask the broker or agent what they thought. Trichter then tells them things they may not have noticed and the parties have a conversation with all information.
“I think all of the recommendations that REBNY has made are good with one exception — I don’t understand why, if the city permits groups of 10 to meet indoors, the purchaser’s broker cannot attend showings,” Trichter said.
“In short, I advise them — which is what we are hired to do. It is simply not going to be the same if I view it on facetime. I don’t feel like I can properly advise my customers if I cannot physically be there with them to see the property.”
Cindy Scholz, a New York City-based agent team leader at Compass said she thinks the phase two re-opening will give the industry a bit of much-needed clarity. She doesn’t expect to see full offices any time soon, however.
She thinks it’s going to be location dependent — the downtown Manhattan offices might be a bit busier — but even then, she expects maybe 20 percent of agents will go into the office. The ones that do, may have to for board packages — common paperwork in New York City for individuals trying to buy into co-ops — or might just need physical distance from people in their apartments.
“I will go into the office myself alone when I want to do head’s down work, but I will not be asking my team to come into the office until after Labor Day,” Scholz said. “When we have meetings, we’re going to do it on Zoom or we’ll do something like distanced outside. I won’t be having any clients into the office. ”
Even as New York City begins to re-open, it’s hard to gauge what the activity will look like, especially in higher-end neighborhoods, where more affluent clientele can find alternatives.
Noel Roberts, the head of private client at Nest Seekers International, gave Inman a look into the mindset of some of his Manhattan-based clients.
“Everyone is dealing with such uncertainty in terms of whether or not schools will open back up in the fall, etc,” Roberts said. “They tell me they’re not rushing back to Manhattan, and a number of them have requested I find them extended fall rental options.”