STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – With the housing industry one of the hardest-hit commercial sectors during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Staten Island Realtors have developed a virtual home showing and open house process to assist home buyers and sellers.
Since real estate brokerages are not deemed an essential business under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s workforce reduction mandate, they are forbidden to have any in-person encounters with members of the public as part of their Realtor-related activities, according to the Staten Island Board of Realtors® (SIBOR) and New York State Association of Realtors® (NYSAR).
So they had to reinvent the way homes are shown to potential buyers.
While Realtors have always used virtual tours — available on most listing sites like SIBOR.com and Realtor.com — what’s new are virtual showings and virtual open houses, said Sandy Krueger, CEO OF SIBOR.
“Both will be done remotely by agents in conjunction with their sellers operating cellphone cameras and other internet connected cameras,” he said.
“SIBOR.com has already been updated so that listings can be marked as being available for these virtual showings, and the sites brokers have and those they syndicate to (i.e., Realtor.com, zillow.com) are being adjusted to include that information as well,” Krueger added.
The ultimate aim is to “produce a better experience for buyers and sellers, which is our top priority,” said broker Scott Setaro, 2019-2020 president of SIBOR and co-owner of New Springville-based Weichert, Realtors – Evolution Group.
The sudden push toward social distancing and remote work has prompted some non-Realtor businesses with ties to the housing industry to adjust their procedures, as well.
“Mortgage lenders and title companies are changing their norms to adapt to the new way we are operating, by utilizing virtual closings, e-signatures and evolving technologies,” Setaro said. “It’s an across-the-board change on how we do business.”
WORKING FROM HOME
Broker Traci Cangiano, a SIBOR past president and owner of Great Kills-based Cangiano Estates Ltd., said she has relocated her office to her dining room table.
“I am encouraging my team to focus on how to make their business better now, so when this is all over, they will be familiar with the technology and the new way of doing business,” she said.
“SIBOR is offering us new tools … to assist with working virtually, and I really think it will be so beneficial for those who choose to take advantage of it,” Cangiano added.
VIRTUAL SHOWINGS MAY BE WAVE OF THE FUTURE
In the aftermath of the pandemic, the way the Staten Island real estate industry conducts business “will forever be changed for the better,” Krueger predicted.
“We’ll look back some day and realize the COVID-19 outbreak was the stimulus that really pushed us into the digital age,” he said. “I believe consumers will profit from a digitally empowered real estate professional.”