Coronavirus News: Realtors relying on virtual tours to sell houses in NY, NJ

NEW YORK (WABC) -- From the safety of their own homes, potential buyers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic can roam through popular virtual online tours of houses in all parts of the Tri-State area, waiting for the day when they can see the houses in person.

"We can do nothing with real estate," said Cynthia Lippolis, an owner-broker. "It's a stay at home mandate."

First deemed as non-essential, New York real estate brokerage activities have recently changed. Now some of it is considered as essential, including residential and commercial showings, home inspections and residential appraisers.

"When somebody does have to see a property in person it should be done with every precaution that is out there," said Gail Fattizzi, President of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.

Fattizzi says she is urging her 11,000 members in five counties to use extreme caution with the new rules that are very specific.

"It's not an open door for agents to go back out and resume business as normal. That's not at all the intention of this change," Fattizzi said.

In New Jersey, the governor's directive states, "Individual appointments to view real estate with realtors by individuals or families shall be considered essential retail business. Open houses are still considered impermissible gatherings."

New Jersey realtors encourage the use of virtual tools such as FaceTime for showings.

Still, the real estate market for the most part has been shut down just as many were expecting a robust season.

"Once we found out how dangerous this was we put a lid on everything," Cynthia Lippolis said. "When the state stopped us from working. No more showings, no more open houses."

Cynthia Lippolis is owner-broker of Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices River Towns Real Estate along with her husband Joe, an associate broker who shut down their offices.

"We shut our office on Friday of that week and started to prepare for what is the reality now where people would be working out of their house," Joe Lippolis said.

In their market in northern Westchester and Putnam counties, some prospective sellers couldn't get their virtual tours online.

"Now they are all at a standstill. The sellers and rightfully so are quite nervous as to what's going to happen because the economy has changed as to whether or not these homes are going to sell quickly as they anticipated," Cynthia Lippolis said.

They are keeping in touch with their buyers, many from the city. And even with some homes vacant?

"We are erring on the side of caution. The state is asking us not to, so we are not going to do it," Lippolis said.

They'll wait until it has been determined to be safe for realtor, buyer, and seller.

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