AUSTIN, Texas – With a growing number of coronavirus cases across the nation, the real estate industry is taking a hit as the pandemic prompts people to stay home.
“I haven’t done one tour in the past week and a half where I am typically touring five times a week with clients,” real estate agent Amanda Becker said to Fox News. “I have had about five of my 30 clients tell me that they are just going to renew, it’s just easier. And I have a few clients in the service industry, and they're not working for the next six weeks so they are trying to put things on hold.”
Smart City, which operates in Houston, Dallas and Austin, placed roughly 15,000 people in rental properties across Texas in 2019.
But this year may paint a different picture, as all three cities that Smart City operates in have seen more than 100 cases of the virus combined. The state total for Texas is more than 300 as of Monday.
“Monday was the first day that we started to see a little bit of a reduction in people calling us for apartments,” Smart City CEO Cassie Brown said.
The apartment-locating company is specifically seeing a decline in people opting to go out to properties to tour in person.
“There is just a lockdown everywhere. Some properties are open and some are not and because people aren’t seeing all of their options, they are basically saying ‘Hey, we can’t make a decision right now,'” Brown said.
Brown added that people are also canceling moving plans because of layoffs happening around the country.
“I had a client who was trying to move in, they got here from out of state. And then as soon as they got their keys for their apartment, they were called and told that their job is no longer going to be a job,” Becker said.
The problem stretches across the nation, impacting markets like Las Vegas.
“On a weekly basis, I get about 30 to 50 phone calls a day, now, today, I have had five to 10 phone calls,” said the real estate agent, Mahsheed Barghisavar.
Barghisavar, who owns Mahsheed Real Estate, she is having trouble getting clients to meet her in person after the governor ordered bars, restaurants and casinos to close earlier in March.
“With the governor making an announcement that all of this stuff has to shut down... it is just a really weird time right now,” Barghisavar said. “I have never been able to see the streets as black as they are right now, like no traffic whatsoever, so people are listening for the most part, and staying home as we have been told.”
The agents who spoke with Fox News say their clients have new demands, too. Some still want to tour properties but aren't willing to go inside with an agent, forcing them to find new ways to do business.
These agents are now using technology to their benefit, doing virtual tours with their clients and even sending videos and photos to help them make a decision.
“I have had two showings, and at both of them, there are agents doing virtual tours for their clients because their clients didn’t want to come… so they are doing a FaceTime.” Barghisavar said. “I had one client where I had to go open the house, and then I waited in the car while they went inside because it was something they said would make them more comfortable.”
Smart City said their realtors are adopting the same practices.
“My day-to-day now is just getting pictures and videos for my clients,” Becker said. “They are just having to trust the videos and the photos we send them.”
Agents added this could be the new normal, as apartment management properties across the country are closing their leasing offices to the public.
“I definitely feel that it will be the norm for at least the next month. I think things will get worse before they get better.” Barghisavar said. “This is definitely going to change all industries and how people are going to go about their lives.”