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A row of suburban houses. Real estate has had to adapt amid the coronavirus pandemic, but agents still hope for a strong year. | Getty Images

Virtual real estate sales and Zoom buyer consultations are now standard practice.

Sam Chaudhry is closing on a $1.2 million house that the buyers have never been to. His clients, a husband and wife with a young child, are moving to Texas from South Carolina. The husband is working from home, and the wife is a physician. Because of the nature of the wife’s job paired with the risk of contracting the coronavirus and getting their child sick, the couple is not touring homes in person. First, they did a buyer consultation on Zoom. Then they had family visit the home and FaceTime them for a virtual showing.

“Buying a home is a very emotional process,” Chaudhry, a real estate broker and managing partner at Remax in Houston, said. “Because when people walk in, they want to see their furniture in there, they want to see where their kids can be, or where they want to be growing their family.”

As the world has adapted to the coronavirus outbreak, the real estate market has shifted. Although it varies state by state, housing prices have not dropped significantly in the way some may have expected, and the future of the market still remains uncertain. While some have lost their jobs and are looking to downsize, others are packing up moving vans and upgrading to larger homes. A recent study from OJO Labs concluded that 80 percent of buyers postponed or stopped their housing search, Forbes reported. The same study showed that buyers are still looking at listing photos and taking virtual tours of properties.

The coronavirus pandemic has left real estate agencies, brokers, and agents at the forefront of a changing market. Vox spoke to Chaudhry, who sells and acts as a rental broker, about his experiences during the pandemic and how real estate is “still on fire” (in a good way). This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

How has your job changed since the coronavirus outbreak?

Because of the coronavirus, we actually ended up going pretty much 100 percent virtual. If we were doing a buyer consultation, we were doing it virtually, because the majority of the sellers were actually at that time also not allowing showings. If we went there, we had to sign the Covid forms, and we would take all precautions with masks and gloves and sanitizers and all the rest of the details.

There was a shock to the system for the whole real estate system, but they actually ended up adapting pretty good.

How do you deal with home showings during a pandemic?

Initially we still had some clients who were flying in from out of town, and any time they wanted to, we had to show the property. We would be taking all of the precautions: We would have face masks on, gloves on, and we will have hand sanitizer and try not to touch the surfaces. We kept a 6- to 7-feet distance between the clients, and we left the door open so they could come and take a look at it, yet we still were 6 to 7 feet apart.

How has the coronavirus affected your business?

One of the first things we actually ended up doing was reaching out to all the clientele and reassuring them that even though this is a temporary setback, everything should be okay, especially for the sellers we were working with. With the buyers, we had a few deals which actually terminated the contracts because of the Covid situation. But we stayed in touch with our clients pretty strongly, and our business is actually up compared to last year at the same time.

What does a typical workday look like for you during the stay-at-home order?

I would come to the office, of course, because we were essential services. We had transactions which were still in the pipeline. I would come in, but instead of more face-to-face meetings, it was Zoom calls, and a lot of phone calls with a lot of previous clients, or new clients we were reaching out to. We would reassure them of the market, and I did inform them that things might be different right now, but if they needed anything we were always a phone call away.

How do you envision the real estate market will change over the course of the next few months?

Real estate is still on fire.

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