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Real estate market put ‘in limbo’

The coronavirus pandemic is having a negative impact on all kinds of businesses — including real estate.

“It has had a tremendous effect on real estate throughout the state, the whole industry is almost shut down,” said Brad Adams, broker/co-owner of ReMax Results Realty Group, Altoona.

“It has pretty much come to a halt. We are in limbo. Closings in the next week or so are up in the air. The Pennsylvania Real Estate Association said we are to have no contact with the public. Our physical offices are closed. Any contacts with customers have to be done electronically.”

“With closings we are advised to check with the title companies to determine if they are still operating,” said Lora Larimer, associate broker with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate GSA Realty, Altoona.

Nathan Verilla, broker/owner of Verilla Real Estate, Altoona, said his business came to a complete stop.

“A month ago, we had a lot of momentum with a lot of new listings and a number of buyers. The last few days, it has come to a complete standstill,” Verilla said.

Robert Pennington, owner/broker of Coldwell Banker Town & Country Real Estate, Altoona, agrees.

“It is impacting us quite a lot,” Pennington said. “My agents are not to have any personal contact with their clients or show a home. All is being done remotely. In our business, that makes a very big difference to function on a normal basis. You can list or sell remotely, but it is not easy. You can’t be with the seller or the buyer. To say we are pretty much at a standstill is correct.”

Although offices are closed, agents are still working.

“Agents are still working to get properties ready to list,” Adams said. “We work from home, follow transactions in motion, gather information to list homes for spring.”

“We can pull up information, drive by the property to see the outside, take calls from buyers on homes they may want and put the buyer in contact with lenders to get pre-approval. People are able to contact agents with questions they have,” Adams added. “Don’t give up. We can do everything but walk into a house, we can have everything read.”

Modern day technology is helping.

“The good thing is there’s so much technology, we can keep up with some things remotely, things we weren’t able to do in years past. We can do a lot of things we couldn’t do 20 or 30 years ago,” said Holly O’Connor, sales agent for Howard Hanna Johnston Realty, Altoona.

Some people are holding off on listing their properties.

“We are not showing properties. Some sellers are holding off on listing properties unless you can show them virtually,” Larimer said.

Communication is the key to staying connected with everybody, Adams said.

“We are still advertising our listings. People are getting full service, they can go to remax.com or centralpahomes4sale.com,” Adams said.

O’Connor said the market was strong before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“We were seeing multiple offers on many properties. I hope once this is over it will pick back up,” O’Connor said. “I think we can make it up. I have lost some sales. One client who had a pending sale backed out because she got laid off. I have had some potential buyers who are not interested in pursuing until they see what happens.”

Meanwhile, O’Connor said the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors has approved the COVID-19 agreement of sale.

Under the agreement, parties can agree to postpone contractual deadlines while the impact of this situation can be assessed. This form allows the buyer and seller to agree that, in the event performance becomes impossible or impractical, either party can unilaterally invoke an automatic extension of all deadlines (the default is 30 days) that have not yet passed, including the settlement date.

For example, if the agreement was signed just a few days ago, pretty much every deadline would have 30 days added. If the parties are just a few days from settlement, the addendum extends settlement by 30 days, but doesn’t reach back and reset the inspection contingency or other deadlines that have already passed.

Realtors remain optimistic things will get better.

“We will continue to watch the governor’s directives,” Pennington said. “That is what we all have to do. We are not considered an essential business. We are waiting for the go-ahead to resume normal activities.”

“The market will rebound strongly,” Adams said. “There will be people who put their homes on the market, and buyers will be there. They will be out full force and it will be better than ever.”

Verilla said buyers and sellers need to be patient.

“It will come to an end, and we will get back to business soon,” he said. “We are all in the same boat.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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