Real estate agents use virtual open houses to social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic

Local Coronavirus Coverage

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – One business effected by the COVID-19 pandemic is real estate.

As part of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order, real estate agents are considered essential and have had to learn to adapt to the life of social distancing while maintaining profitability.

Kayla Janeway of Century 21 Legacy told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that utilizing social media to boost the number of showings of a virtual open house is a technique she aims to use well after social distancing orders are revoked.

“I have my selfie stick ready to go, and then I just take people on a tour through the house…it would be the same script as if I was having somebody come in and show it, like my buyer is with me,” Janeway said. “I’ve noticed that with the Facebook Lives, people are right there with you and then it reaches so many more people so I think I’m going to want to integrate more virtual open houses after the coronavirus and all of this kind of passes on, just because you have more people to make an impact on really quickly.”

Janeway added that having a social media presence in the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount to remaining in business.

“People are relying on social media, you have to have a social media presence, you have to know how to talk to be able to get through the virtual open house too and guide them through that process,” she said.

Social media has aided Janeway in growing her business to a larger demographic of clients, especially in rural Northeast Tennessee.

“What’s great is say you’ve got a house that’s kind of in the middle of nowhere too, it’s going to be really difficult for people to drive up there, and we have rural areas like that around here,” Janeway told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “This kind of opens up a whole new demographic of houses that we can have open houses in and they are still successful.”

Social media, especially Facebook live videos, has become integral to the fabric of Janeway’s way of conducting business.

“This has actually been positive for my business and I’ve learned so much about what I want to do with my business model moving forward,” she said.

“Well things have changed but things are still going. As you know, real estate has been deemed an essential business, and of course, it is. There are people that will always need to buy and sell, whether the lease was up and they had to buy a house or whether they were in this process and they’ve already sold a house or, there are lots of reasons why people still need to buy and sell real estate so we’re very happy to still be working. Some things have changed, though, if you have a house for sale and you just don’t want people coming in your home, you can take it off the market for a little bit, but what we’ve been doing is allowing us to show the house virtually,” Karen Jenkins of Evans & Evans Real Estate said.

Business has been negatively effected, Jenkins added, as she has indicated a decline in the number of in-person home showings in the region where she works – Washington County, Tennessee.

“It has changed in that right now we don’t have those people out who are saying ‘oh let me just go see what that house looks like inside,’ right now it’s only those people that truly need to buy or sell a house. We don’t have those people who just want to go out for a Sunday drive and look at an open house. We are no longer having open houses,” Jenkins said.

As a personable salesperson, Jenkins added that the closing process, after a sale has been made, has turned into a bit of an anti-climactic affair instead of a cause of celebration.

“When we close, we actually haven’t even been going in the title company, they’ve been bringing the paperwork out to us with sterilized pens and everyone’s been kept apart, which is a little bit different,” she explained. “I had a closing last week and typically, I’m a hugger and I’d be like ‘oh, congratulations on your new house!’ and it was kinda like ‘hi great, enjoy your house, we’ll see you in a little bit’ so those things have changed.”

The most important aspect that has been affected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is the lending process, both agents told News Channel 11.

“One of the biggest things though that may change the real estate market is simply on the lending side – if you have been approved for a loan, but yet you get furloughed or laid off or lose your job during this time, that’s going to change your qualifications as to whether or not you can buy that house, also maybe people were going to use their down payment pulled from the stock market, those number have changed, so that’s where we’re seeing some differences,” Jenkins said.

With negativity seeping into the daily life of most people due to the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate agents encourage homeowners stuck at home to consider renovating or even just doing some do-it-yourself projects around the house to boost the marketability of the property.

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