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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Spring won't be the same without home shows

Spring has sprung, but with the usual popular spring events delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak, it will seem broken.

On hold

Postponed: The Oklahoma City Home + Outdoor Living Show, originally scheduled for March 27-29. The show is rescheduled for Oct. 9-11 at the OKC Fairgrounds.

Postponed: Parade of Homes Spring Festival, originally set for April 24-26 and May 1-3, new dates to be determined by the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association.

Postponed: The Oklahoma City Orchestra League's Symphony Show House fundraiser for music education, originally scheduled for May 2-17, has been postponed to May 30-June 14.

A builder's take

Lindsay Haltom, director of marketing for Homes By Taber, wrote to give a home builder's perspective on the coronavirus's effect on housing. Note that she wrote on Tuesday. And I am writing this on Wednesday, which is the deadline day for this section. I wonder: How much will things have changed by Saturday?

Hi Richard,

We read your recent article, "Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Housing market on edge; Oklahoma City Realtors brace for impact of virus" (Oklahoman.com March 13, in The Oklahoman March 14) and thought it was important to provide another perspective that we are experiencing with data to support it. It’s easy to let fear be the guide but it’s also important to share some new home trends we are experiencing that are all positive.

In the first quarter of 2019, we sold 105 homes. Coming into the first quarter in 2020, we had a goal of 121 sales, which would have shown a healthy growth year over year. As of March 16th, three days after this article was released, we have surpassed that set goal with 190 homes already sold. Halfway through March, we have surpassed our 1st quarter goal by 69 home sales and by the end of March we are on track to see a 100% increase in sales year over year.

So, the question remains, what about the virus and the hysteria? How is this effecting the OKC housing industry? Looking at our factual data with online traffic and our foot traffic inside our model homes/neighborhoods, we are not seeing an impact. In fact, the best way to describe this is that if we were inside a vacuum and only looking at our data, not watching the news or listening to any other influences, we would not see any indicators of an issue. What we are seeing is that people are still in the buying cycle and still moving forward with their homepurchases. In a world that’s being pumped full of uncertainty, it’s important to know that we are not seeing the doom-and-gloom effects that others may assume are taking place.

A great benefit of touring new construction is that no one is living in the home and keeping them clean is much easier. Our sales agents are consistently wiping down all surfaces in between customer visits, now more than ever, providing a clean environment. Our homes are constructed with healthy home technology, including fresh-air intake systems and full air filtration systems, making the air inside our homes even healthier than the air outside. Another important factor is that appointments are one-on-one and crowds are not a concern, with social distancing practices easy to accommodate.

One quote from your article was, “Is this coronavirus craziness going to affect our home sale?” It’s important for home shoppers to know that there are additional options for purchasers in the market for a new home. For example, we have customers that are taking advantage of our Trade Up program where we purchase their current home so they may easily move into one of our homes without ever having to list current home. If having people come in and out of their home is a heightened concern, this is a convenient option for them.

Even before the Coronavirus, we have seen more and home shoppers take advantage of technology and we have countless stories of customers utilizing Facetime appointments and other virtual options, such as interactive floor plans, 3D tours, and video walk-throughs of the home. In 2019 and 2020, we’ve had multiple customers relocate from various states and countries without physically ever stepping foot inside their home before the purchase. It’s expected for this trend to continue with "add to cart" shopping options in the near future.

While we all navigate through this together as a community, it’s my hope that this information provides some clarity and positivity because it’s our factual picture that we are seeing.

Sincerely, Lindsay Haltom.

Fair housing issues

The National Association of Realtors cautioned member Realtors to be extra aware of the potential for discrimination — illegal discrimination — in reaction to the coronavirus and the disease COVID-19. The guidance is good for anyone in the housing business:

What unique issues does coronavirus present to the real estate industry?

"When an infectious disease, such as coronavirus, is associated with a specific population or nationality, fear and anxiety may lead to social stigma and potential discrimination. Realtors must be mindful of their obligations under the Fair Housing Act, and be sure not to discriminate against any particular segment of the population. While the coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, that does not provide a basis for treating Chinese persons or persons of Asian descent differently."

May I ask clients or others I interact with in my real estate business if they have traveled recently, or have any signs of respiratory illness?

"Yes, you may ask clients or others about their recent travel, particularly to areas identified as having an increased risk of coronavirus. To avoid potential fair housing issues, be sure to ask all clients the same screening questions based on current, factual information from public health authorities."

I typically drive my clients to showings. May I refuse to drive potential clients to see homes?

"Yes. However, be sure that any change to your business practices is applied equally to all clients. You may refuse to drive clients who show signs of illness or reveal recent travel to areas of increased risk of coronavirus, or you may instead decide to stop driving clients in your car altogether, and simply arrange to meet clients at a property. If you do continue to drive clients in your car, it is a good idea to frequently clean and disinfect surfaces like door handles and seat belt latches, and to ask clients to use hand sanitizer when getting in and out of the car."

Should I still conduct open houses on my listed properties?

"Speak openly and honestly with your seller about the pros and cons of holding an open house. Assess the risk based on your specific location, and direct your clients to local and state health authorities for specific information about the severity of the risk in your area. You could also propose alternative marketing opportunities for your seller's consideration, such as video tours and other methods to virtually tour a property.

"If you do hold an open house, consider requiring all visitors to disinfect their hands upon entering the home, limiting the amount of people in the home and providing alcohol-based hand sanitizers at the entryway, as well as soap and disposable towels in bathrooms. If you decide to do any cleaning at your client's home, be sure to check with your client in advance about any products you plan to use. After the open house, recommend that your client clean and disinfect their home, especially commonly touched areas like doorknobs and faucet handles."

Richard Mize

Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked... Read more ›

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