HOBOKEN - It’s 2020—it’s completely normal to buy things like shoes, clothes or home furnishings online. While 2020 has been anything but normal, particularly for the real estate market, buying a home sight-unseen is still an extreme rarity.

COVID-19 restrictions closed down the common practice of Open Houses back in March, forcing many realtors to get creative when marketing their properties to potential buyers.

“Buyers’ behaviors have pivoted in response to the pandemic,” said Amy Owens, who operates in Glen Ridge and Montclair for Keller-Williams. “Clients selling their homes expect realtors to vet every prospective buyer more thoroughly—including mortgage pre-approvals and alignment with a scheduled close on the property.”

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Although Open Houses were put on hold, the real estate industry was theoretically deemed “essential” during the lockdown, as people needed to be able to find homes.

“Unlike our friends across the river, here in New Jersey we have been able to continue to show our clients homes during the pandemic. This has allowed us to develop a seamless, safe process to show homes,” said Ann Wycherley, of Century 21 Innovative Realty in Hoboken and Jersey City. “Although we have taken full advantage of the latest technologies available to us—including videos, 3D tours and FaceTime or WhatsApp video calls—it is no substitute for an in-person view of your potential new home.”

Earlier this week, State of New Jersey officials announced, “Open houses to view real estate are permitted in NJ, provided they comply with the restrictions on indoor gatherings, including the requirement that attendees wear face coverings."

This is generally seen as a positive development for the New Jersey Real Estate Market.

“I applaud the decision to allow open houses for real estate listings,” said Peter Cossio, of Hudson Realty Group – Halstead Properties in Hoboken and Jersey City. “As long as Realtors adhere to social distancing guidelines, open houses can provide buyers in our market an opportunity to view real estate listings in person while in a safe environment.”

A lot of factors are at play that might spur the decision to relocate. Any buyer shopping for a home in the midst of this unique socioeconomic climate is likely pretty motivated.

“I believe anyone attending an open house in the near future will be a serious buyer,” says Wycherley. “Buyers now have the ability to research homes extensively online with tools that give a much clearer picture of layout and design, thus eliminating the need to visit multiple properties just to see which one might be a good fit. Buyers will be more for focused.”

Whatever the motivation for a new home, it’s recommended that buyers take advantage of all available online resources to fully research not just their potential new home but also the market.

“Truth is, as real estate agents, we prefer that buyers visit a property accompanied by their realtor or contact us directly for a virtual preview followed by a private tour,” says Owens. “It demonstrates a higher degree of motivation to buy from the experts, instead of the casual visit to a crowded open house by parties who don’t understand the ins and outs making compelling offers in the local market.”

Says Cossio, “We as a team are constantly looking forward and staying positive about the real estate market in our area. As New York City, Hoboken, Jersey City and the surrounding areas begin to end the lock down we feel the underlying economy will continue to value real estate.  Real estate is not just a product that we are selling.  Real estate is a home, a lifestyle, its memories and its where people and families come together and we will continue to be part of the process of finding and selling the place that our clients call home with the care and professionalism that we always have.”

That professionalism will likely be echoed by the experienced realtors who have risen to meet a variety of challenges in one of the world’s most dynamic real estate markets. The savvy combination of technology and technique will be a lasting testament to the adaptability of realtors during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We simply can’t ignore the fact the pandemic is still here,” said Owens, “and that we’ve pivoted to a new way of brokering real estate transactions.“

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