95% of the United States is under stay-at-home orders and yet somehow the real estate market is continuing to hum along. How are realtors and other settlement service providers like inspectors and appraisers learning to adapt in this new environment – not to mention buyers and sellers? Through technology and ingenuity. Agent Ken Abramowitz sat down with NFM TV to explain some of the strategies his group Is using to keep moving during this nationwide lockdown.

Full Transcript is Below:

– Welcome in to NFM TV! I’m your host Greg Sher. Interesting times remain in the mortgage and real estate business. We thought we’d check in with a top realtor. Joining us now is Ken Abramowitz from the Ken Abramowitz Group of RE/MAX Town Center. He’s got two offices in the state of Maryland. A 10 year real estate veteran. Ken, thanks for being with us on NFM TV.

– You’re very welcome, Greg. I appreciate you having me on.

– All right, so let’s bust a couple of myths. Real estate is not selling during the pandemic.

– That is 100% false. We started out the year in a situation where the inventory was lower than normal and that’s just been amplified. So, for example that I can tell you that where I am, my particular neighborhood, normally we see at this point anywhere 150-200 homes on the market. There’s under 20. So, because there’s a lack of inventory, but the rates are still good, and people still need a place to live. You know food, clothing, shelter. Market’s as active as it’s ever been.

– Could some of that be fear though? People feeling like, well, if I put my home on the market, who’s going to want it at this point? People are in such disarray in some parts of the country.

– Yes, that’s 100% correct and we have a fair share of our clients that have decided to wait it out. We actually have run into a couple of situations where we had a home, we wrote a contract on it, we were on the buyer end of it, we were about to ratify, and then the seller freaked out because she didn’t want the inspector and the appraiser to come through and take her home off the market. So, we are seeing things like that, absolutely.

– So, tell us what some of the exceptions are that had been made by the state that you’re in to be able to continue to be an essential worker, to be able to show homes if that’s what the client wants. Are there restrictions around that?

– Yes there are. So, Governor Hogan of Maryland has been one of the most outspoken, leading guys in the country. I believe he’s ahead of all the Governor’s Association, whatever that is. So, he’s gotten way ahead of this thing, more so than a lot of others. So, what he ruled was that number one, we’re actually considered essential. Real estate agents are essential. The rule for showings is that no more than three people in the home at the same time, including the agent. We are allowed to do showings. We have protocols that we have to go through. We advise everybody, and we put this in this showing instructions, in the MLS comments to the agent, you have hand sanitizer, gloves, wash your hands. We have a questionnaire. If you’ve been coughing, if you have a fever, all the CDC… So, everybody is fully aware and just giving that little more. Here’s the thing that you’ve gotta jump through. But in Maryland, we’re good to go. We just have to go within these guidelines. And also, no more overlapping showings. It used to be, for sellers at least, multiple agents in at the same time was beautiful. Cause that only led to a feeding frenzy and multiple offers. Now, that’s it. One group per hour. So those are the things that we are getting used to here on our end.

– Yeah, and I think it’s like that all across the country where we do business. I’m wondering, from your perspective, if technology has advanced enough to handle these times. Virtual showings. Do you find that your clients are willing to purchase? Is there enough data and enough visual evidence to have somebody commit to a transaction of that magnitude? Without every walking inside the home.

– Yeah, it’s interesting you say that. The answer’s yes and I’m gonna tell you, I just had two experiences like that. One, we were… A buyer called me up last week. Saw a place, wanted to go in there, loved it. We wanted to go take a look. So I called the agent. He said, “The sellers are in their 70s. They don’t want anybody coming in the house. Write the offer first.” And he had a virtual tour. The video was spectacular. He did a great job. “Write the offer, I’ll give you a verbal okay, and if it looks good to them we’ll let you in the house.” And that’s what he did. He insisted on walking my buyers through, and after we were done, buyer said we’re good to go, and that was it. We were ratified. There was another one where we were on the buyer end. We were one of three offers on this house, and the people that bought it, we lost out because it was a rent-back situation we couldn’t do. But the buyer that got it never saw the home, video only, the agent never walked in, no contingency to walk away when they see the home. And again, it was a video walkthrough. In this particular one, the agent did a virtual open house where somebody was holding a camera and she just walked through and described every room. So, between the virtual showing, which we can connect a Zoom link and put that on the MLS, and these virtual open houses, and our MLS has now allowed us to post a virtual open house. Just like a normal open house, except you indicate virtual. Yes, people are buying based on that sight, unseen. We are seeing it.

– So what about when it comes to home inspections, which is normally the linchpin to consummating the transaction. Are you finding people more willing to buy the house as is, or is there still that factor involved?

– I think people are willing to do as is. And I think it all depends on the situation. So, at this point, I think everybody’s sort of used to the normal, which is we’re gonna be in a competitive situation, at least where I am, no matter what. And there’s other areas, California, Seattle, there’s areas that are that same way. So, they’re used to that. They know that. So, if we’re in competing situation, we’re pretty much gonna take the home as is, unless it’s an older home and they’re worried about it. So, they are doing home inspections still. The change is that the home inspectors, for the most part, I know ours are doing this. They don’t want anybody in the house, including buyers, during the inspection. So, what my inspector’s doing is as he goes through the house, and as he finds things, he sends us a video snippet of it. And he goes, “This is what I found.” So, he does that. And he’ll also go, “Hey, great news guys,” We just did one earlier this week. He’s standing on the roof, “Guys, great news. 30 architectural shingles brand new.” So that’s how he’s doing the inspections. Now, as an agent, I’m like, “Man, I hope that sticks around after this is over, cause I’m getting a little spoiled here by the technology.” I’m not sitting there for three hours just walking through a house. That’s sort of the way it’s going right now. These inspections are even virtual.

– So, based on what you’re seeing, based on the climate out there, what advice do you have to people that are on the fence as to whether this is a good time to list their home?

– I think this is an unbelievable time to list a property because we have that market that everybody is sort of… The dream market. No inventory, tons of buyers out there. Why? The rates are still unbelievable. We got a guy pre-approved for three and a quarter last week. The rates are actually with Kevin. The rates are great. There’s even lower inventory than there was in the beginning of the year. We’ve had an inventory issue for the last probably, two years. So, it’s supply and demand. There’s very little supply and a ton of demand. I don’t know that there’s a better market than this for sellers. I mean, homes are just flying off the shelves if they’re priced right, relative to their condition. It’s an amazing market right now.

– So, I had mentioned that you’d been a real estate agent for over 10 years. Prior to that, I understand you were in the medical profession. So, what did you do and did that prepare you in some way for the psychology of what’s going on right now, given that it is a medical issue that’s created all of the hysteria?

– Yes. It’s very interesting how that worked out. I own several medical offices and we were dealing with, and I’ll just tell you what we were doing, it was a very boutique practice. All we did, one procedure. It was non-surgical hemorrhoid treatment. And you wanna talk about a problem that everybody has but nobody wants to talk about and you have to be very sensitive and be able to use the psychology to try to comfort people, that everything’s gonna be okay. And we’re sort of in that same here. So, how that transfers to the real estate side is number one, that one on one. We’re sort of going to this almost doctor-patient relationship now. Where we really have to… It’s very emotional. And you have to just be patient with people. Understand their point of view. That all they’re thinking about is what’s in their head and what’s in my head is not important. I just have to, kinda calm their fears and tell them everything’s gonna be okay. So, from that part of it, for this situation, it’s great. And the other part, just overall, I had multiple offices. And being able to be on that business side of things, I used to negotiate both deals and marketing, and sales, and this was a very hard thing to get people to do. And I would sometimes joke, if I had the right seller, I would say, “Listen, if I could get somebody to call an 800 number, and let a complete stranger that they don’t know, a doctor do that procedure, I think I could sell your house.” It’s a kind of joke

– There you go. in that way. That’s how it kinda prepared me. It’s very similar. It’s a very emotional process and it did help me out for that.

– Well, we really appreciate your insights during this challenging times in a lot of aspects but also an opportune time, as far as you’re concerned, in the real estate market. Ken Abramowitz, from the Ken Abramowitz Group of RE/MAX Town Center. We really appreciate your time and for being with us on NFM TV.

– Sure thing. Thank you.

– Alright, talk to you again soon.