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Realtor says real estate market should be paused

In a span of just two days, New York state went from partially lifting a pandemic-spurred restriction on showing homes in person to reinstating it once again.

On Wednesday, the Empire State Development agency said many real estate-related functions are "essential" and allowed one-on-one home showings. By Thursday night, though, the agency said those showings can be "virtual" only.

A spokesperson from the Empire State Development agency, which oversees those regulations, said, "Being an 'essential' industry does not mean business as usual -- business can only be conducted if social distancing and other public health protocols are followed and all must be doing everything they can to help stop the spread. For real estate, that means brokers can only transact business in their offices or show properties virtually, and anything else is off-limits."

With the state switching its stances several times, Mark Siwiec of Keller Williams Realty said he and about 200 agents in greater Rochester signed a letter saying they’d rather not sell properties at all.

“I respect however my colleagues want to conduct real estate, but my clients, in consultation with me, have decided to take all our properties off the market,” said Siwiec. “We all realize and understand that we’re losing wages, but that’s part of the collective suffering that’s going on.”

Siwiec said there are contingencies in the contracts of a lot of properties sold virtually that could allow buyers to back out before the sales are final. He also said that’s a risk he doesn’t want to take at a time when the focus should be elsewhere.

“My clients feel that this is a time where commerce should be set aside, this is a time for the community to come together, this is a time for philanthropy and volunteerism,” said Siwiec.

Siwiec expects “an explosion of activity” to follow the eventual lifting of social distancing policies, but he’s concerned about the pandemic's long-term effect on the economy. 

“Sadly and unfortunately, I think that we’re going to enter into a recession,” said Siwiec. “Not a national recession but a global downturn that is going to be deep and is going to last a long time.”

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.