Hudson County’s real estate market slows, goes virtual
The number of local real estate transactions has declined in recent weeks, but the market is not entirely at a standstill, members of Hudson County’s real estate industry say.
Many property tours are now being held over video calls, and some renters are signing leases without ever visiting their new apartments, realtors said.
Coronavirus has put society at a standstill, and while many are postponing moves, some simply can’t.
“If you can wait, we’re advising people to wait,” said Sawyer Smith, principal broker and realtor at Sawyer Smith Residential. “If you’re under pressure, then some people have to sell and we’ll do everything we can to facilitate that.”
Smith has seen a decline of between 50% and 60% in the sales due to the coronavirus. Most buyers and sellers who had deals in progress proceeded with them, he said.
His company is now conducting house tours over FaceTime and is making sure as few people as possible are at closings. They are offering one-on-one showings because they can’t hold open houses. Most of the properties he deals with are either vacant or new, so there is no risk of contact with the current owner, he said.
Silverman, which has rental properties in Jersey City, has made its rental process completely virtual. So far four new tenants have signed leases despite never physically viewing the apartments, said Vanessa Imme, the company’s director of leasing and sales. Two are renting from currently occupied units and they only saw photographs before signing, she said.
“That’s never happened,” she said. “I’ve done tours via FaceTime with people relocating internationally, but never without a video tour.”
The company is offering people who sign April leases a 10% discount for the entire lease and the opportunity to abandon it within the first three months. Its reputation in the area helps with earning the trust of potential tenants, said the company’s co-owner Paul Silverman.
“I think people will take that leap of faith,” he said.
Mohammad Mallick, 27, is one of Silverman’s incoming residents. He and his wife were considering renewing their lease in Hamilton Park because of the pandemic, but they signed with Silverman to take advantage of the deal on a Grove Street-area apartment, he said.
“It’s kind of like unwrapping a present Christmas morning,” Mallick said. “I’ve never been to this apartment. I’m going to show up with a moving truck.”
Some other companies offering virtual tours include Roseland, Post Brothers and LanTree.
Tours for LanTree’s LoftsTwo22 in Bayonne are on YouTube and the leasing team is working remotely.
Smith, whose offices are in Jersey City and Hoboken, said he is expecting a surge in home purchases once the public healthy crisis abates.
“It’s a pent-up demand,” he said.
Both he and Silverman said prices will likely recover quickly. But the short-term effect, and how long largely virtual real estate transactions will last is the big unknown.
“There are people who have to sell and there are people who have to buy and there are people who have to move, so we need to keep it together and work effectively while at the same time being extremely careful,” Smith said.