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COVID-19 Pumps Brakes On Real Estate Industry

Olivia Mitchell
NPR Illinois

Those in the real estate industry were hoping for a competitive and prosperous housing market during the spring season, but the rapid spread of COVID-19 put a pause on their plans. One broker offered advice to the industry on what it should be doing through the pandemic.

Michael Oldenettel, a managing broker for real estate company REMAX Professionals, said homeowners should consider refinancing while rates are low.

“With low interest rates, this is the best incentive that a buyer could ever hope for because that gives them more buying ability with low rates, and for a seller, that generally means that there’s going to be more buyers available,” Oldenettel explained.

Oldenettel said buyers should be looking out for what’s going to be on the market. Sellers, meanwhile, should regroup and get their homes better poised for the market for when the pandemic is over.

Responses to COVID-19 are also causing delays in closings for sellers and homebuyers.

Due to fears of infection, Oldenettel said his company made the decision to cancel open houses - a process in which a dwelling is open to be viewed by potential buyers.

“Open houses invite groups of individuals in a short period of time, and is that in the best interest of our clients knowing what we now know,” said Oldenettel.

“There's a lot of things that have been affected with our realtor members and with our agents.”

Delays are also stemming from housing inspectors being unwilling to perform home inspections because of contamination fears.

To minimize public health risks, title companies and lenders have put visiting restrictions on the public, asking that only signatories attend home closings.

Oldenettel also expressed his concern for the livelihoods of real estate agents because they are, for the most part, commission based.

“If there is a slow down, agents may not be able to make an income to pay their bills, buy groceries, or pay for their kids schooling,” he said.

The REMAX broker said he remains optimistic for what’s to come, though: if the housing market made it through the 2008 recession, then it will make it through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Olivia Mitchell is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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