Renting, buying homes hasn't stopped across the Tri-State -- even during a pandemic

Posted at 6:02 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 19:48:52-04

COVINGTON, Ky. — When nurse Dora Green moved back home to Greater Cincinnati, she moved so she could help her mom.

Green shopped around for apartments and landed on a still-being-renovated high-rise above Covington's riverfront. She signed the lease a couple of months ago and learned she'd be the first person to move into Madison Place.

"I loved it from the minute I walked in the lobby," Green said.

Then COVID-19 shut down nearly everything.

"I did not know if I could move," she told WCPO. "I was hoping I could move despite COVID-19."

Moving into Madison Place
Dora Green and her family are the first residents to move into Madison Place, during the pandemic.

Seeing no concrete end date for social distancing orders, the leasing office at Madison Place had to get creative. It had people with signed leases and set move-in dates already. It has set up staggered move-in dates and times, so there's no one jockeying for space in the freight elevator. There's no direct contact with staff either; the apartment keys are left in a disinfected apartment at set move-in times.

And, of course, there's an app for that.

"It allows our residents to communicate with us any way they wish, if they need to place a work order or just need to chat and have a question (like), 'How do I work my thermostat?'" said James Sellar, marketing director. The app also alerts residents when they receive a delivery and will soon offer deals to local businesses.

There are still plenty of apartments for rent, though. Madison Place isn't offering in-person tours for prospective renters. That, too, has gone virtual -- mainly using FaceTime to facilitate tours. It's as simple as a leasing agent carrying a phone through an empty apartment.

It doesn't change the view, but it does keep everyone at a safe distance.

"Some people have actually quite enjoyed viewing their new home from the comfort of their couch," Sellar told WCPO. He added that some apartments even had been modeled for virtual reality tours already.

Real estate rocks on

Meanwhile, residential real estate remains a seller's market in Greater Cincinnati.

"We were moving into 2020 at the speed of light and that has not changed," said realtor Julia Wesselkamper, citing a strong economy and a shortage of housing inventory.

There are some signs that April and May could see a slowdown, especially in other parts of the country. But Zillow Research on Monday forecast a small dip in home prices through the end of 2020 before rebounding again next year.

"People have reasons, all kinds of life reasons, that they need to buy or sell," Wesselkamper said.

There have been some serious changes since the start of the pandemic, though.

Wesselkamper said agents are doing more planning: Gone are the days of impromptu showings.

"We do not allow overlapping showings, and we are providing all the sellers with kits of hand sanitizer, and the booties, and signs to please use those as [people] are touring," she said, adding that buyers need to work with agents on prior virtual previews and a pre-approval.

"This isn't casual, because the goal is to minimize exposure for everyone," Wesselkamper said.

Even closings, once often celebratory and communal, have become virtual or a drive-up service at the title company or attorneys' offices, she told WCPO.