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Open houses upended by virus in latest blow to soft market

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JODI FREED had everything in place to sell her three-bedroom Queens apartment: professional pictures, cut flowers and an open house scheduled for Saturday.

But the mom of two had second thoughts about letting the general public inside her home in the age of coronavirus. On Thursday, the day after her listing hit the market, Freed called off the showing.

“I have a son with asthma and a daughter who has epilepsy and I really don’t want a million strangers in and out of my house,” Freed said in an interview. “I didn’t want to put my family at risk.”

New York City brokers are puzzling over what effects the spreading virus will have on sales in a market that’s already soft. Sellers have been reducing prices in the face of rising inventory and buyer concerns that values have peaked.

Now, there’s a threat of contagion from close contact with people and surfaces — the essence of a real estate open house where buyers and gawkers come, linger and touch.

“If the coronavirus for some reason — and I hope it doesn’t — goes out of control and New York City faces drastic increases in the virus, that may have a chilling effect,” said Fritz Frigan, executive director of sales and leasing at Halstead, who compiles a weekly index of open house activity across the five boroughs.

Last weekend, open houses had an average attendance of 4.77 visitor groups, down from 5.62 the prior weekend, according to Mr. Frigan’s index. The data is based on 270 broker surveys collected last week.

Mr. Frigan said his office has so far seen one potential seller waver on whether to even list a property out of concern about having visitors come look at it.

Ms. Freed, working with Keller Williams broker David Kong, listed her renovated apartment in the Bay Terrace neighborhood at $675,000. The unit is in a doorman building and has two terraces with views of Little Neck Bay. The amenities include a pool and a tennis court, according to the listing.

Now, Ms. Freed is the position of trying to market her home while limiting the number of people who get to see it. She’s considering having a day of showings followed by a deep cleaning, or possibly even delaying a sale.

“They’re playing soccer in a stadium and not letting people come watch,” she said, referring to the situation in Italy. “How can I possibly say ‘OK, come to my home?’” — Bloomberg





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