73ºF

Houston-area realtors use new technology to sell homes during COVID-19 pandemic

HOUSTON – The “For Sale” sign out front, an open house, and the real estate agent showing the property...all key parts of the home buying process for decades. But times are changing, thanks to COVID-19 and so are realtors’ approaches to selling.

Irma Jalifi is an agent with Redfin Realty and says the pandemic is one of the toughest things to hit Houston’s housing market. So Redfin is now using new technology to keep business moving along while adhering to all of the social distancing standards.

Direct Access

“It’s called Direct Access and we are installing on our listing at our cost a keypad lock that allows someone to go tour the home on their own without an agent,” Jalifi said.

The program allows prospective buyers to safely tour homes without having to meet an agent at the property, and without having to come into contact with anyone.

“They get a code and they just come put the code in and the door opens and they get to come in and look around,” says Robin Schwalb, who lost her husband several years ago and is now putting her house on the market, despite COVID-19.

So far, she says 20 to 30 people have come through her property.

“I thought it was really going to be a waiting game, that there would be nothing until the virus was over and then we’d have people looking,” Schwalb said. “But I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many people have looked.”

So how does it work?

You download the Redfin app on your phone and enter some information about yourself — your phone number, and email address.

Then, use the app to select the homes you want to tour.

It gives you a picture of the house, the price, the square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Then when you arrive, you just click the “unlock the door” button.

What about safety?

Rania Mankarious with Crimestoppers of Houston says it’s a very safe situation.

“With the Redfin app, specifically, we have to remember that before you get that code, you have to go through an identification process,” Mankarious said. “So Redfin is going to vet you, verify you, make sure you are who you say you are.”

She also advises people not to go into the homes alone.

“We still advise to go with somebody, even if that person stays in the driveway while you’re taking a tour of the home,” Mankarious said.

Redfin also says properties must be vacant so there’s no danger of having anything stolen. You can stage the home, but it must be vacant.

As for Schwalb, she’s happy with how her home has been showing and hopes the tours continue.

“I had two showings yesterday, and another one today,” says Schwalb. “It’s really nice, you don’t have to answer, it’s great.”

Redfin launched Direct Access on March 27 and the featured homes can be toured any day of the week between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. It’s available in Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Los Angeles and San Diego, along with a few other cities.