The good news for residents of co-ops and condos is that brokers can once again begin showing apartments in person. The bad news is that open houses – a proven way to drum up interest – are on hold until the pandemic is under control.
The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) has released a list of guidelines for residential buildings, which includes a plain-language version of the State Department of Health’s Interim Guidance for Real Estate Services. According to both, brokers may conduct in-person showings while observing social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment, but they should limit the number of people in the unit at any given time. As a result, open houses are effectively prohibited in favor of showings by appointment.
All prospective buyers must wear masks or face coverings during the showing, and the broker or owner should be ready to provide masks if viewers show up without them. Additionally, prospective buyers are strongly discouraged from bringing unnecessary guests or children. REBNY’s guidelines are available on its website (https://bit.ly/REBNYforward), along with a health questionnaire and a limitation of liability form that all brokers and buyers are required to sign before viewing an available home.
“The state just doesn't want everybody marching through with people at home,” says Stewart Wurtzel, a partner at Tane Waterman & Wurtzel. “I don't know how comfortable I would be having people traipsing through my house.” Agents and brokers are responsible for wiping down high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and handrails after every showing to further reduce the risk of infection, and they’re encouraged not to show common amenities like gyms in person.
Wurtzel adds that boards can ban all in-person apartment showings and allow only virtual viewings. “So,” he says, “if you have a board that's concerned about a lot of people riding the elevators up and down for two hours to the 20th floor, they can say, ‘No, we're not allowing in-person viewings.’”
Bruce Robertson, an associate broker at Compass, points out one upside to the restrictions coming in the middle of the summer: many residents have left the city for vacation homes or suburbia, either for the summer or to ride out the pandemic.
“I happen to have a couple listings that are totally vacant,” he says. “We’re not really in the swing of things yet.”