In a matter of days, coronavirus has transformed the way Washington operates—our restaurant scene is dormant, offices are empty, neighbors are finding new ways to connect. But there is one piece of life here that, so far, remains stunningly unchanged: the competitive real-estate market.
“Agents will call and ask me about showings as if it’s business as usual,” says one agent at a top agency, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “Clients have asked to go on tours of houses. It’s bizarre. It’s like nobody knows what’s going on, or like everyone’s pretending they don’t know what’s going on.”
Indeed, even as the city hunkers down, there are 105 open houses still scheduled in DC this weekend. On Thursday—a popular day to post new listings—91 homes hit the market in the District, basically identical to the 94 listed on the same day last year.
Keller Williams agent George Mrad has several open houses planned in Northern Virginia this weekend. “As of now, we’re reacting to what the market is telling us, and people are out,” he says. “For the new listings, there’s so much demand to come see them that it’s easier to open them up for a little bit.”
Mrad says there will be safety measures in place, including only allowing one group in at a time while everyone else waits in their cars, and asking people to refrain from touching anything.
McEnearney agent Steven Berson, who recently listed his own home in Crestwood, says about 30 groups came through the open house last weekend. He will not be hosting an open house this weekend —McEnearney has shut down open houses for the time being— but says he’s still getting calls for showings.
Long & Foster agent Roby Thompson attended a closing Friday morning, in which he and his clients sat in a separate room from the other agent and her clients, and everyone used their own pens. Thompson has also made a habit of wiping down all surfaces—including the lockboxes—at listings he visits. Yet, he says client demand remains healthy. In the coming week, he plans to list four new properties for developers who still want to try selling, even as coronavirus shutters much of Washington.
Not all agents, though, are listening to their clients right now. “My business has gone down because I have had a couple clients who have asked to write offers, and I’ve actively convinced them not to,” says the agent who spoke on condition of anonymity. “[I’ve said], I really discourage writing this because if we don’t take some time to see what happens in the coming weeks, you might end up in a situation where you’re halfway through a loan and you can’t close, or you’ve closed but you’re not allowed to move.”
His advice? “We as a group of humans owe it to all of the other humans to just fucking relax for a few weeks. Like, read a book.”