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Virtual home buying: Real estate market navigates coronavirus crisis

Real estate agents are adapting to new rules and regulations, all while helping clients find their dream home during a pandemic.

WASHINGTON — It would normally be the busiest time of the year for the real estate market, but because of the coronavirus crisis, home sales are down. 

Instead of bringing family members along to open houses, people searching for a new home are going alone, wearing face masks and gloves. Others have decided to put their home buying process on hold. 

"We have buyers that are moving full force ahead and some that are on hold because of circumstances with their jobs," said Shoshanna Tanner, a real estate agent with Compass

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Tanner and her team are relying a lot on technology during these unprecedented times. Some sellers are wary of people coming in and out of their homes. That's where 3-D showings and even virtual staging can make a huge difference. With the ability to see every square inch of the home virtually, it makes it feel like you are actually inside. 

Priya Persaud is an agent with The Home Team of EXIT Landmark Realty. One of her clients closed on a home just days after the stay-at-home order was put in place in Maryland. 

"Everyone had gloves on and we had masks. The three of us were sitting around this big table," Michelyn Cierra said.

Persaud is still selling homes using social media and sending videos of potential homes to clients. She is only taking serious buyers out to see properties in person. 

"For the safety of our clients, unless they extremely love this property, we won't be doing showings. You have to love it to see it, we won't be doing six to eight properties a day," Persaud said.

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Elissa Laderach, an agent on Tanner's team, listed her own house in mid-April. 

"We had a virtual open house on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A lot of the people that tuned in actually ended up sending their agents in person," Laderach said.

Nearly 40 potential buyers attended virtually. Nine offers later, they had a buyer that never even set foot in the home.

Some agents believe stay-at-home orders, and people spending more time in their homes than usual will impact home buying trends in the future. 

Caitlin Warren, with Compass, said there will likely be a shift not only in virtual home buying but also what people are looking for. 

"Are they going to be looking for dedicated home office spaces now? Are they looking for bigger kitchens or more room? Maybe they want some outdoor space? We've all been getting closer with our significant others; maybe you want a his and her bathroom," Warren said.

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