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Coronavirus In Seattle
caption: With open houses banned this week by the nonprofit that publishes real estate listings, realtors are trying other strategies.
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With open houses banned this week by the nonprofit that publishes real estate listings, realtors are trying other strategies.
Credit: Courtesy of Rob McGarty

Seattle realtors ask: 'Can you see yourself being quarantined here?'

Open houses are banned. But people still want to buy homes as badly as ever.

If you’re shopping for a home this weekend in Seattle — you’ll have a hard time finding open houses. That’s because the nonprofit that publishes real estate listings shut down open houses last week, due to coronavirus concerns.

But the real estate market is still hot, so realtors are experimenting with new strategies.

Last weekend, one two bedroom house in Ravenna had about twenty visitors in it at one time, according to Bushwick Real Estate Service's Rob McGarty. The house sold for 30% over its listing price, he said.

McGarty said people who’ve been shopping for a home — are still looking. “We are still seeing bidding wars across the board,” he said.

But crowded open houses do not represent good social distancing. That’s why NWMLS, the non-profit that publishes real estate listings, told realtors they couldn’t advertise open houses.

There’s no teeth saying realtors can’t put out an open house sign. But without NWMLS advertising, crowds will be limited to those who happen to walk by and notice.

An NWMLS statement about the open house ban pointed to optional software it offers homeowners that manages showings so that no more than one party shows up to a house at a time.

But even an empty house can represent a coronavirus risk, as the virus stays there even after infected visitors leave. It remains viable for up to three days on things like doorknobs, kitchen countertops and stainless steel appliances.

Some realtors are shifting their emphasis to video tours. McGarty has been doing that for years, and said recently he's seen increased interest in his walk through videos.

And because there's no replacement for an in person viewing, he says he’ll continue bringing individual clients into homes, armed with Lysol wipes and Purell. "And if our clients show an interest in the house, we’re now jokingly asking: 'Can you see yourself being quarantined here?'" he said.