‘This is what I do - I make people happy’
Realtors are out of work right now due to the governor’s order. Under the order, Realtors are not considered essential workers. Some may find this strange, as shelter is definitely considered a necessity.
Realtor Lucy Lennon of Morganelli Properties shares her experiences during the pandemic.
“It’s hard to say from year to year how a market differs – coronavirus or not – because of market conditions,” she said. “This year started off much busier than last. In March alone I had over a half dozen closings and a handful of rentals. Then the governor shut us down and it all came to a stop. Now we are all at a standstill.
“I have been able to do some transactions, like I said it was a very busy March right up until the end, and I had one closing in April, which we could close due to the fact the contract was signed in mid-March.
“I also just signed an agreement of sale for a couple relocating from California. They are buying the house based on the information the seller provided and pictures online. And although it’s a lovely house, good neighborhood, great curb appeal, and price, it’s still scary. But in this case they would have purchased the home without walking through it, but I can honestly say I would have felt better if I could have walked through, or at least Face-Timed them through the house.
“I feel responsible for any property my clients purchase, and now I’m representing them in the biggest purchase of their lives – sight unseen. I personally have gone to my clients that were scheduled to list their homes this spring and told them to wait until the restrictions are lifted before we list. I think viewing a house in person is a better selling technique than a video.”
At some point the shutdown will be relaxed, and real estate sales should resume. Lennon has some thoughts on what that scenario could look like.
“I think once the shutdown is lifted there may be a bit of a frenzy,” she said. “Due to the ....restrictions the governor has set forth, we have a lot of people who are now carrying two mortgages/house payments, or in some instances are in a sense ‘homeless’ or living in hotels or with friends and family.
“There are many people who have to move. This isn’t just a whim for someone relocating for a job or to take care of family. There are students scheduled to start school/rotations at the hospitals at the end of summer who will have nowhere to live because we can’t rent them a home or apartment.
“For instance, you live in Virginia and your son or daughter works very hard through high school to get into Lehigh and needs someplace to live in August. You can’t plan a trip to come and view the campus, find an apartment, or take the tour because we can’t show you anything. You have to go on the Internet and sight unseen find housing – sorry – that’s wrong.
“Or you are starting a rotation at St. Luke’s in the fall. Where do you live? Are you going to commute from New York or Virginia or wherever?
“Why is it okay to sit with your neighbor in a golf cart, stand next to a stranger on the banks of a creek, or go to Lowe’s with 100 other people?
“State Sen. Lisa Boscola set forth some great guidelines for Realtors to follow, based on CDC guidelines that would allow us to provide housing in a safe and controlled environment.
“And for the people who say they wouldn’t want a stranger/strangers walking through their home right now, that’s okay, too. No one is forcing anyone to put their home on the market. But for some, there is no choice.
“Here’s another example, and this is a true scenario on properties that closed right at the beginning of the shutdown...
“I put the ‘Smith’ family’s house on the market. They are buying the ‘Browns’ home. The Smith family does not NEED to move, but they love the Brown’s home. The Browns DO need to sell because they are carrying two mortgages. The ‘Taylor’ family wants to buy the ‘Smiths’ home. And now the fourth family in this scenario is the ‘Toms’ who need to relocate to the area because of his job and they want to buy the ‘Taylors’ home. OK, so we have all these families and all of these houses. Some need to move; some want to move, but if you take just one deal out of this scenario, they all topple.
“Maybe that’s okay for the ‘Smith’ family and the ‘Taylor’ family, but what about the ‘Toms’ that are relocating and the ‘Browns’ that are carrying two mortgages? I know that’s hard to follow, but it’s a true example. It’s a complicated business, an essential business, and the governor seems to just look at it like ‘just don’t move,’ but it’s not that simple.”
Lennon explains the role Realtors play in moving real estate.
“We don’t just ‘show’ houses,” she says. “We guide you through probably one of the biggest purchases you will ever make. We help you weigh the pros and cons on every property we introduce you to.
“We make sure the transaction is legal and timely. It’s not just a matter of finding a ‘better’ house or a ‘greater’ location, it’s putting a safe and affordable roof over your head when you have to relocate due to a new job, a divorce, a fire or a flood. It’s making sure you have somewhere to live when your parents need you close by. It’s getting you an apartment that’s pet friendly because you don’t want to rehome your seven year old dog.
“It’s helping you navigate a short sale on your home when your spouse leaves you and you can’t afford your home and you don’t want a foreclosure on your credit. It’s having connections and resources to help in the transition for seniors who are downsizing and need to move into a nursing home. It’s not just showing homes – it’s helping people achieve attainable dreams and hopefully a level of comfort and security. I love my job. I love helping people.”
Lennon shared a personal story.
“I met a lovely woman about five years ago. She helped me find a senior living option for my parents, who were a tad difficult. This woman was a lifesaver. She lived quite far away and was getting tired of the commute. On and off we looked for houses. It started off as a whim, just to look, and then it became a detailed search. We were determined to find her dream home.
“Her greatest dream? To have horses again as she had when she was child. This went on for a few years. Nothing serious, but we would pop in and out. Then one day she called me – she wanted to look at a small farm near her work. Nothing serious she said – it just looked interesting. Well, the minute she pulled up she knew it was for her. After all those years of looking, she was home. She fell in love.
“The woman selling the home was a widow who couldn’t maintain the physical and financial upkeep. So my client didn’t have to buy at this time – but the seller did have to sell. And so it closed 10 days before the shutdown.
“Now I look at my client’s social media and the pictures she takes of her horses and her grandchildren in the barn and I smile. This is what I do. I make people happy.”
Lennon hopes the shutdown ends soon. It’s been hard on people both financially and emotionally.
“I have no issues with following CDC guidelines/mask/hand sanitizers,” she said. “I have to be very careful. My ex-husband lives with me and my boyfriend because he’s going through radiation and chemotherapy right now. We are beyond careful. We are at St. Luke’s every day for treatment so we are fully masked/gloved most of the time.
“But I know I can still do my job safely. Showing a house following CDC guidelines is less of a risk to my household than when I go to Lowe’s or Wawa, in my eyes.”
Lennon hopes the economy bounces back.
“I worry about my restaurant friends who are struggling right now, and my merchant friends who can’t open their stores,” she said. “I went to pick up takeout last week and sobbed the whole way there and back because it just was so heartbreaking to see all those dark windows in downtown Bethlehem.
“These are all my friends, my community and I know as a retired restaurant owner how hard it is in the best of times. I just keep thinking ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’
“I’m one of the lucky few. I’m okay, but I’ve always said, ‘You are only as strong as your merchant neighbors’. And that applies to real estate, too. If my clients are losing their jobs and businesses, they aren’t buying properties. If the restaurants and stores can’t re-open, then the properties downtown aren’t as appealing or valuable. It’s just a big circle.”
Lennon has not applied for unemployment benefits because she felt she doesn’t need them.
“I don’t feel it’s right to take something just because its offered.” She says, “That’s out there for people who truly need it. I’ve heard from others though that they applied so long ago and still haven’t heard or received anything, and I feel so bad for them. This is an economic nightmare for many people.”