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With Social Distancing, Northern Nevada Realtors Sell Houses Virtually

A sign in front of a house
Brian Bahouth
The Sierra Nevada Ally

Real estate agents in Northern Nevada have long relied on virtual technology to sell houses, and under the restrictions of safe social distancing, the industry continues to churn. Brian Bahouth of The Sierra Nevada Ally spoke with the president of the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors about what’s next for her members and industry.

Even a casual glance at graphs of regional economic data following the closure of non-essential businesses is cause for alarm. With staggering numbers of unemployment insurance claims and state agencies bracing for double digit budget cuts, a slowdown in the real estate market is not an unreasonable forecast. For Erica Lamb, president of the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors, her members continue to do business online, as they have for many years.

“Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of inventory of properties because there has been a high demand with low inventory. A good, nice priced property that goes on the market can possibly have multiple offers, or it can go off the market pretty quickly,” Lamb said.

Given high demand for homes, agents become virtual proxies for buyers, which still can occur under safe social distancing guidelines. In recent years, according to Lamb, buyers who wait to actually tour a property, lose out.

“After that happens a couple of times buyers are like, 'okay, we're feeling like we're really missing out on these houses. If we have to, we'll just put an offer on the house sight unseen, or you go and do a virtual showing of the house because I can't get out of work fast enough,' ” Lamb explained.

But no matter how a buyer can see a house, they need a job to borrow money, and even though March regional home sales numbers spiked, the time it takes to actually process a house sale can be months, so the effects of the COVID-19 emergency on future home sales are unclear.

For Lamb, the future demand for houses is wait and see. For now, her association is providing training opportunities to its members, and many who have yet to embrace the latest technology now have time to do so.

“We're finding that realtors are investing a tremendous amount more in their education than what they did previously. And they were already pretty invested,” Lamb said.

Real estate agents are typically not eligible for unemployment benefits, should a brokerage let them go, because they do business as independent contractors. Lamb said many of her older and immune-compromised members are not working for safety reasons, but are eligible for unemployment benefits under federal emergency relief funding.

KUNR Contributor Brian Bahouth is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Sierra Nevada Ally. Read the rest of this story at The Sierra Nevada Ally.

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