National real estate brokerage Redfin RDFN, -0.36% is cancelling future open houses and limiting in-person tours of homes listed on its site as precautionary measures amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Open houses are suspended for all homes listed by Redfin, the company announced Monday. The company is also limiting in-person tours of its homes to two customers per tour.
Home buyers and sellers have grown wary of open houses out of fear of catching or spreading the novel coronavirus, and several cities are under orders from authorities to avoid all but essential trips out of the house and keep six feet away from other people. Last weekend, average attendance at open houses in Manhattan dropped to the lowest level so far this year, according to a weekly report put out by Halstead Real Estate. Open houses only had 4.1 visitors on average, down from 5.6 just two weeks earlier.
For in-person tours, Redfin will not allow anyone to visit a home who has cold or flu symptoms. If a Redfin agent has a cough or cold symptoms, the company will have another agent handle the tour.
Additionally, agents have been instructed not to shake hands with customers and to maintain six feet of distance from clients during the tour. When clients visit homes, they will not be permitted to enter small bathrooms or crawl spaces.
The company is emphasizing its virtual touring options as it cancels open houses. “The coronavirus has just made the future we’ve been preparing for come sooner,” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said in a blog post announcing the coronavirus policy.
Redfin already publishes interactive, three-dimensional scans of all homes listed by Redfin agents. The company will also allow prospective buyers to tour homes listed by other brokerages in a virtual fashion through a video chat with a Redfin agent.
“On a video-chat tour, a Redfin agent broadcasts what we see on a walk-through of the home, responding to your requests to pan left or zoom in,” Kellman said. “Schedule the tour as before, but follow the online prompts to ask for a video-chat tour.”
Other brokerage firms are also promoting virtual tours as an alternative to the traditional open house. “In light of the current conditions, we feel conducting virtual home tours is the best way forward,” Darryl Frost, spokesman for Keller Williams, told MarketWatch, noting that the company is advising agents on the best practices for virtual showings.
“Agents have been conducting virtual home tours in various forms for decades,” Frost said. “It’s nothing new and now the technology to do so has only continued to get better and less expensive.”
(MarketWatch reached out to other major brokerage firms including Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices BRK.A, +4.57%, Realogy RLGY, -10.61% on their planning around the coronavirus, but did not immediately receive responses.)