Apartment Showings Return in NYC With New Rules for Covid Era

For the last three months, one of the classic New York City real estate rituals was off limits: in-person apartment showings.

Now, that key tool used by brokers to pitch property is back, just with fewer handshakes, more sanitizer, masks, temperature checks and even trips up the service elevator.

The real estate industry would typically slow down this time of year, with New Yorkers decamping for the Hamptons to ride out the summer on the beach. But with the spring-selling season mostly washed out by social distancing, brokers and their clients are ready to make up for lost time.

“I’ve never seen people so excited,” said Ignacio Cesped, an agent at the brokerage Elegran, who had six showings on Monday. “Everybody was super happy being able to see things, even if they don’t like it.”

Brokers tried to keep business going in recent months withvirtual apartment tours. But without in-person showings, sales of co-ops andcondos tanked. Now, with New York City reopening, the industry is bouncing back and adjusting to the new challenges of the Covid-19 era.

It wasn’t long ago that New Yorkers hopped around open houses after Sunday brunches for fun, even if they had no intention of buying. Those days are done for now because of appointment requirements and limits on how many people can be in an apartment at a time.

Showings will just be serious buyers–no entourage of friends, children, and decorators tagging along to share their input, said Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern, executive vice president at Kleier Residential.

Still, Kleier Morgenstern has been flooded with phone calls from potential buyers in recent days. The surge in interest is a rarity for June, when real estate listings usually die down, she said.

While buyers can now see an apartment, most building amenities, like gyms and pools, are still closed and can’t be shown to buyers, according to Cesped. Brokers are also dealing with state regulations, including required cleanings between tours, and guidelines established by the Real Estate Board of New York.

The industry group says agents for sellers must prepare hand sanitizer or soap for all showings. Buyers cannot touch anything while viewing a listing, hand shakes are forbidden and masks are a must.

Brokers are also trying to figure out the new rules at specific buildings that have listings. At one on Park Avenue, brokers have to sign health forms and submit to temperature checks before entering through the back elevator. They’re required to wear protective booties on their shoes and are forbidden from touching anything once inside the apartment, according to Michele Kleier, president of Kleier Residential.

Other buildings on Park and Fifth Avenues are not letting brokers in, or limiting how many showings can happen in a day. Jacky Teplitzky and Barak Dunayer, a team of brokers at Douglas Elliman Real Estate, tried to a show a buyer a co-op near Lincoln Center on Tuesday, but the building turned them away.

Even with the tricky co-op boards, New York brokers are the busiest they’ve been in months. Jason Haber, a broker at Warburg Realty, spent the lockdown trading stocks and working out.

On Monday, he woke up at 4:45 a.m. and worked until his last phone call at 10 p.m. with a client in China.

“This is the first day in 111 days I haven’t exercised,” he said

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