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Real estate agents take safety precautions at showings amid coronavirus

Buyers are eager to purchase, while sellers may wait to have showings.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The melting of snow is usually the start of open house season. But this year, things might look a little different for the housing market.

“20 years in the mortgage business,” said Kevin Polakovich, co-founder of Treadstone Mortgage, “and the last three weeks have been the craziest."

Polakovich said that’s because of interest rates, which are historically low.

RELATED: Interest rates at a record low

“Right now, there’s a lot of volatility in the market,” said Polakovich, “There’s not a lot of buyers at the second for mortgage backed security, so we’re seeing big fluctuations of mortgage rates up and down on a day-to-day basis, and sometimes hour-by-hour.”

Local buying agents say West Michigan is uniquely positioned during this time. It has had a strong housing market for the past few years, which may allow it to weather the storm.

“We have such a hot market here, we may balance out” said Darryl Matthews, a buying agent with the Lucas Howard Group, “I don’t expect us to go into a deep dive, as we’ve seen 10 or 12 years ago from today.”

Matthews said his buyers who have been looking a while are now becoming more aggressive. Given the current climate, there’s not as much competition in the market, which is good for the buyers.

“Safety is the biggest thing,” said Matthews, “and a lot of folks are putting off or holding off until we know a little more about what’s going on with coronavirus. They’re putting off showings, coming to the market. For those that are still entertaining it, we’re pushing safety.”

That safety comes in the form of showings. Matthews said he and his fellow agents are doing a lot of virtual showings and open houses. If they must show a home in person, extreme precautions are taken. They allow 15-minute windows, ask sellers to keep all closets and doors open and lights on to reduce touching. Plus, they will use hand sanitizer often or wear latex gloves.

“It’s still a great market,” said Matthews, “This week, my team we’re still out and in the field. And able to set appointments and list houses. We still have houses coming to the market this week.”

Polakovich said he hopes people can look past this current uncertain time. He said the trends in West Michigan show buying is still a smarter option than renting. That’s looking at month-to-month costs, as rent continues to go up, and mortgage rates continue to drop.

“When we look back, we get sometimes caught in the moment,” said Polakovich,  “In the moment of, ‘Boy, I’m worried, do we want to move forward? What’s going on in the world?’ In time, we’ll continue to see this is a great time to buy.”

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