Following Italy, most of the Western Europe’s countries took strict measures against the spread of coronavirus. The number of cases with coronavirus in Belarus is growing, although not as fast as in the neighboring countries. What pandemic response are real estate agencies taking now?

Spray disinfectant. Photo source: «Pakodan»

Director of the real estate agency «Smart Realt», Tatyana Nedereva-Arkhipets:

— We are adapting conduct of our company staff. Before the situation with coronavirus, to make a contract for the provision of real estate services, our agents visited the site for the company’s services presentation and preliminary property valuation. Very often, our experts had to participate in the so-called «castings» that some sellers liked to arrange.

At the moment, a decision has been made to reduce contacts with consumers to a minimum and mostly transfer our operations to online. Today, we make a preliminary property valuation remotely. If the hallmark of our company was a very accurate customer consultation resulted in the recommended selling price before, so now, when we recommend the price to the seller, we give them a «price fork».

If the seller gives consent, we prepare a draft contract for the provision of real estate services and negotiate the terms and conditions remotely. And single time we visit the property for photo session. We try to minimize the real contacts between us and our customers.

Such decision was made at the agency just a couple of days ago. Our clients, as it seems to me, have accepted and appreciated this provisional innovation.

We do not recommend sellers to host a large number of visitors; and in such obstacles a real estate broker is a good helper. Even at a phone call stage you can filter out those who don’t meet the requirements of the proposed transaction. And it’s mandatory to make a record of the person who you were dealing with.

If the seller wishes the agency’s experts to visit open house, then we should clearly understand the purpose of such visit.

We have never foisted on our sellers that we would visit open house with a potential buyer before, and now we consider such approach to be absolutely inappropriate.

Of course, our office provides every opportunity to observe rules of personal hygiene both for employees and visitors. We do not want and will not expose our staff and potential consumers to excessive danger. Socially responsible conduct is what we are called for and what we will follow.

By the way, one of our agents has returned from abroad. He will stay home for three weeks and work remotely. Those who can work remotely — do work remotely.

At the moment, we are selling two properties, the owners of which live in New Zealand and the USA.

Just a few days ago, we select a buyer for one apartment. Based on the fact that there is a pandemic in the world, and our owner from the United States will not be able to fly for a deal within the next month, a decision was made to refuse a potential buyer who was ready to purchase an apartment at a higher price, but with a loan. Under the terms of loan, it should be granted in a short time after approval. However, in current situation, we cannot guarantee the transaction within the timing required by the buyer. So, the explanations were given to the potential buyer. We signed a contract for the apartment purchase with another client who had all the money on hand and gave consent to wait the owner’s arrival from overseas for as long as necessary.

Pavel Kuznetsov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of «Real Estate Center «Pakodan» Ltd.:

— We keep up with the times and have purchased disinfectants to prevent infection with coronavirus. Our staff, coming to work, threats their hands with antiseptic.

Photo source: «Pakodan»

In addition, bactericidal irradiators for air disinfection, which are used in operation rooms, are installed in the office premises where the staff works. The irradiator in 1 hour completely cleans the air in the room from all viruses, including tuberculosis.

Irradiator. Photo source: «Pakodan»

If we talk about the situation as a whole, we have not notice fewer people coming to the agency. We installed devices and disinfectants exclusively to protect employees in order to eliminate the possibility of illness. Now, is such a season that the incidence is increased.

I do not think that coronavirus will somehow significantly affect the real estate market. Rather, now there is mostly a certain panic of something unknown. In fact, this is the same flu disease. Judging by statistics, there are no more deaths from coronavirus than from ordinary flu. I think very soon the panic will calm down, and the situation will return to normal.

We personally invite people to the office to conclude contracts and get acquainted with some statistics. I do not see a problem. There is absolutely no danger to visit our office.

Director of the real estate agency «Molnar», Anatoly Zvezdin:

— We’ve decided that all employees who do not need to be in the office every day can work remotely. Today, there are various messengers and other features for such work. The preventive measures apply to all viral diseases, not to mention coronavirus. Although, all the experts came to the office to discuss the news, meet with customers and negotiate before.

Now, when we come to the office, we wash our hands, clean door handles, table surfaces and telephones with disinfectants and offer our customers to do the same.

We believe that now there is a greater degree of panic. At least for now.

Our real estate service is optional; it is not something for every day. Therefore, consumers, especially the cautious ones, will choose what to do. We are not a food store where you have to go every day or every other day. So far, the number of transactions has not decreased. But, I think it is yet to come.

Deputy Director of the real estate agency «Home and K» (Vitebsk), Igor Bodritsky:

— As long as nothing has changed in our work, there is no panic. Everything is calm enough. Although, of course, the topic is all over.

We recommend our staff to observe personal hygiene rules, wash their hands more often and treat them with disinfectants.

We already see that the spread of coronavirus has a negative impact on the economies of countries around the world. This can negatively affect the economy of our republic as well and, accordingly, the real estate market of our region. Many industries — tourism, logistics and others — already suffer enormous losses. And, of course, there will be some consequences. But now it is difficult to guess, which ones.

The fact that Vitebsk is located near the border with the Smolensk and Pskov regions of the Russian Federation does not have any impact on our regional real estate market, including because of coronavirus. The city is located in the north-east of Belarus, and here we face a rather difficult economic situation. The President of our country has paid attention to this fact more than once. Hence, the increased attention to the Vitebsk region.

So far, the situation with coronavirus has no impact on the market of Vitebsk, and we haven’t noticed a decrease in number of transactions. The market is still active. We connect this situation with the fact that banks lend the purchase and construction of housing and, unlike the previous two years, haven’t stopped lending. There is a purchasing power and at least a small, but still price rise.

In Vitebsk, we haven’t large number of transactions with foreign citizens. Basically, they are concluded between local residents.

I urge everyone, colleagues and clients, do not give in to panic.

Director of the Real Estate Agency «Center of Apartments» (Grodno), Vadim Karpinsky:

— So far we are not taking any special measures to combat the spread of coronavirus. It does not scare people who come to our office. There was one case of infection in Grodno, and it has not yet affected people’s minds. If the situation worsens, then we will take action. While raising a panic makes no sense for us.

However, we had two transactions for apartments with citizens from Italy, where quarantine was declared. One family has been living in the north of Italy for some time and came to Grodno to sell the apartment. We have found a buyer. But the deal had to be postponed for two weeks. Sellers took tests, expressed a civil initiative and went through quarantine. The virus has not been confirmed. The transaction was made two weeks later.

For the second transaction, we agreed to make a preliminary contract and prepayment contract. But when the potential buyer learnt that the sellers came from Italy, he asked to postpone the deal for a week to avoid direct contact with the sellers. After the time passed, everyone met and signed the documents.

There was another case when the owners rented out their apartment to two foreign medical university students from Iraq. They paid the rent and went home for the holidays. But they were not able to return back, because the Belarusian side temporarily banned entry of foreign students. Meanwhile, they study remotely. It turned out that the rent of the apartment was paid, but the students do not live here, and it is unknown when they will return to our republic.

As for the demand for real estate, so far coronavirus has indirectly affected the situation. Economic and financial factors are more influencing — falling oil prices and currency fluctuations. In this regards, many people take a wait-and-see approach.

In Grodno, a lot of potential buyers «left» from the secondary for the primary housing market. First of all, because the secondary market has always been and remains a «dollar» one. Prices for new apartments are fixed in Belarusian rubles. And since the Belarusian ruble is weakening, it has become more beneficial to buy apartments for rubles from the developer.