Selling During a Pandemic: How Some Agents Are Closing Homes Virtually

Posted on Apr 24 2020 - 3:50pm by Jameson Doris

Credit: Halstead

During the current pandemic, real estate professionals have been hit particularly hard as being able to conduct in-person showings and open houses is integral to the selling process. Agents have gotten creative in order to continue their business—many have closed homes through a completely virtual process.

Related: How Newsmakers Are Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic

One such property is a penthouse—252 East 57th Street PH65—which sold on March 16th for $19.5 million. Located in Manhattan's Midtown East, the high-rise is a new construction featuring 173 rentals residences and 93 condos within a 65-story tower and represents one of the biggest deals closed since the coronavirus hit the U.S.

Halstead agent Marina Bernshtein represented the buyer, Dr. Angelo Acquista. The main virtual tool they used throughout the homebuying process was video conferencing. They utilized this tool, most importantly during the closing, so that all parties involved could be virtually present.

"The pandemic was escalating during the transaction," Bernshtein tells Housecall. "I was thankfully still able to show the property in-person to the buyer, Dr. Angelo Acquista, prior to the shutdown."

The appraisal process for the penthouse began before New York City was on lockdown. Additionally, Bernshtein and Dr. Acquista were able to do a final walkthrough of the unit.

"The two of us did the walkthrough, all while being extremely cautious, practicing social distancing and wearing masks and gloves," Bernshtein adds. "We were able to virtually close the deal with the help of the developer's agent and the attorneys."

While Dr. Acquista was lucky enough to be able to view the property once before the pandemic began, many buyers are not as fortunate. In the nearly two months since much of the country has been on lockdown, there have been numerous reports of homes being sold sight unseen, viewed virtually and closed virtually.

Recently, in Marina del Rey, Calif., 12723 Milton Street is a property that sold despite the buyers never having stepped foot inside the home. Listed by Flyhomes agent Trina Daniels, the turnkey townhome was sold by a local couple—Roy and Larry—for $910,000.

The property was listed on March 24 and was under contract on March 30. Daniels was able to get the home under contract so quickly by utilizing a number of virtual strategies. One was the home tour being conducted by the sellers—via video, of course—with constant narration and using various anecdotes throughout. Also, more photos of the home were taken than is typical, with Larry standing in several to demonstrate the height of certain features within the home, such as the shower head. 

Roy and Larry are proof that you can have a successful sale in the middle of a pandemic. They were able to sell their home without breaking quarantine, at their asking price, in just 5 days using only virtual open houses.

In the midst of the coronavirus, agents face monstrous obstacles, but those that can get creative, adapt and are determined will come out on the other side of this stronger than when the pandemic began. Selling homes using only online tools—no in-person tours, open houses, etc.—is possible during this crisis.


5 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Jim Lee April 29, 2020 at 4:33 pm -

    We have sales pending on the New Hampshire Seacoast both pre and post lockdown. We do virtual open houses instead of the traditional ones. Virtual showings via Zoom and video, electronic signatures which is nothing new Appraisers and home inspectors come in alone, and closings are handled remotely with buyers and sellers signing separates and neither agent present. Other than that it’s pretty much business as usual.

  2. Alex Cortez April 29, 2020 at 4:34 pm -

    Aloha Jameson, great information specially as it is anecdotal based on actual transaction. In our market, we’re seeing a lot of Facetime ‘showings’ and the use of Matterport 3-D tours. Those agents who can adapt will be best positioned to come out of this crisis sucessfully.

  3. Mike Walsh April 29, 2020 at 4:56 pm -

    Selling virtually only is a rare occurrence and not the norm. Very small percentage of those will get to closings since County offices are shut and title searches and CO searches can not be done. This is a good time for agents to work on back end stuff like marketing and social media.

  4. Phil B. April 29, 2020 at 5:39 pm -

    No question that the pandemic has been disruptive, particularly to the real-estate business. It is, however, really inspiring to hear all the ways that people are adapting and getting deals done! Here in the NorCal market where a lot of traditional tools, like in-person open houses, are prohibited right now, we are having to adapt and help clients adapt to the market we have.

  5. Buy Travel Insurance Online May 5, 2020 at 5:04 am -

    I think the best way to sell during a pandemic is to sell online, it is also safe for health and time saving as well.