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VOL. 44 | NO. 13 | Friday, March 27, 2020

Please don’t put lives at risk just to sell another house

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Rick French, a veteran real estate agent with more than 40 years of experience, was a leader in demonstrating protocol at the advent of the COVID-19 epidemic, requiring booties, gloves and eyewear to be worn during showings of his listings.

And showings were only happening when deemed absolutely necessary.

He contacted The Ledger and requested that the populace be warned of the horrific tragedies that have been inflicted by the disease and the multitude of deaths associated with its spread.

Now, the Metro Public Health Department has issued the Safer at Home Order, and French has hopes that the order would solve the issue, since in part it prohibited Nashvillians from going to work unless they are “providing essential services.”

The events in Italy are greatly disturbing to French, who has close friends in Milan. They have provided firsthand accounts of the carnage the disease has caused. Bodies are being pulled from the buildings and stacked into emergency vehicles to be taken to mortuaries.

These people, for the most part, have died alone. There will be no funerals, at least not any time in the near future.

French says he was relieved when the Safer at Home Order was issued, feeling that would put an end to showings.

However, upon learning of the order, the Greater Nashville Realtors contacted the Mayor’s office, an email sent to members reveals.

“After learning of this order, the Greater Nashville Realtors immediately reached out to the Mayor’s office to determine how housing sales and related services should be defined,” the email states.

This action was taken because the initial order made no reference to housing and rental services being included or excluded as “essential services.”

These services, of course, assist in providing housing and would help Nashvillians who have no homes can be safer at their new homes. Especially with the tornado and its aftermath still feasting upon homes of hundreds within the community, there is a need for those seeking shelter.

After communicating with the Greater Nashville Realtors, the order was amended to read “Housing and rental services may continue, but agents should practice social distancing, hold no open houses or gather in groups of 10 or more.”

Last week, even in light of all of the messaging from President Trump, the governor of New York and leading health officials – and real estate firms closing their doors to agents – the real estate industry was practically business as usual.

It’s understandable that those with houses under contract – buyers and sellers alike – were eager to close, so the lenders, appraisers, title companies and Realtors were scurrying to get transactions closed and behind them before the surge.

Title companies have made arrangements to close remotely, and lenders are able to work from home. As for new construction, Metro Codes is open and working from the homes of the inspectors.

Unfortunately, we now know such behavior might have contributed to the oncoming surge as asymptomatic people are identified by some as being the majority of the carriers that are spreading the virus.

The week the president proclaimed a National Emergency for the country followed an earlier proclamation for the state and the city for different reasons.

Yes, there is the immediate need for housing, but caution must be taken. A check of a Realtor-only Facebook page that lists homes that are entering the market shows new listings being posted after the Safer at Home Order.

There are those who are listing homes presently with apparently no regard to the virus. Listing vacant homes and scheduling showings so that they do not overlap – and with a minimum number of people at the home at one time – would be within the guidelines of the order.

But those who reside in houses they wish to sell should wait to list the houses.

One reason is there are many who are following the Order to the letter and not leaving their homes, thereby reducing the potential market for the house that would be for sale. Additionally, the stock market is down 30%, and those who were planning on using investments might want to give the market a chance to recover.

Suppose an unsuspecting, well-meaning buyer had earlier in the day reclined in a chair that was contaminated with the COVID-19 virus and then sits in a chair in a house that is on the market? Then the homeowner’s child and grandfather wipe the chair with their hands and touch their faces.

Boom! As they say.

Another helpful hint for when this is over: Those considering selling their homes should put the properties on the market at that time. There is the “wait for the spring market” myth and other reasons to wait.

When the market is good, sell. This devastation was no more predictable than 9/11 or Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

For now, it is time to stay home. At least until the curve is flattened. This will end.

Richard Courtney is a licensed real estate broker with Fridrich and Clark Realty, LLC and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com.

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