I'm over the Coronavirus. In fact, like many, I'm suffering from "Covid-fatigue" so when my manager called me earlier this week to talk me down off the cliff, it wasn't exactly the pep talk I had expected.
(Forvgive me Mike, I'm paraphrasing.)
"You know, Julie, no one likes the rules or the restrictions we're under, but this virus is no joke and people are dying (more than 100,000 to date), but unlike millions of Americans on the unemployment rolls, YOU and I are working, so if you have to tow the line and wipe down your listings after every showing (you heard that right - EVERY showing), get use to it because this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon and we're probably looking at a few years, not a few months."
In other words, Mike was speaking to "acceptance" - a concept with which I am intimately familiar but have difficulty practicing when push comes to shove. Like most self starters, I like order, I like control, I like running the show! "Acceptance," in my practice, goes hand-in-hand with "'surrender" and that's means turning it over to faith and trust, which admittedly (and regretfully), isn't my natural inclination and certainly not the default zone. And while Mike didn't exactly say it, what I heard, was: "Shut-up and run." (For a girl with a blog that may be an impossible thing to do; the shutting-up part; not the running.)
In short, we're navigating a new reality and most of this strange new world is out of our control, so I can either choose to get angry about the ever-increasing demands, restrictions, mandates, orders, and laws, OR I can put on a pair of running shoes. Since getting angry, irritated, or highly annoyed doesn't serve my Buyers, my Sellers, or the process as a whole, I guess I'm going to have to get fitted for some new Nikes.
And while it pains me to admit that my frustration is self-indulgent, I am grateful that Realtors are considered "essential," if only because property and transfer taxes are one of the few revenue streams that counties are relying upon at a time when most business have reluctantly come to a screeching halt. (We'll take the opening, thank you.) Even with an uptick in sales, our overall volume is about half of what it should be year to date. Consequently, municipalities will find themselves woefully short of dollars, leading to budget cuts that are certain to be deep and wide. In other words, there's going to be a lot of pain out there and many are going to be far worse off. So am I grateful to be working even if it's with 10 lb. weights around my ankles AND despite that fact that we're often spinning in circles. Yes I am. (Shut-up and run.)
As an aside, now that California is beginning to open up, it's alarming to see the photos of people flocking the beaches and parks with no regard for social distancing, no masks, and clearly, no common sense. If we find ourselves under more restrictive orders 3-4 weeks down the road, it will have been of our own making. (Hey you, grab a mask - our future depends on it!)
With respect to Real Estate, the Covid scare seems to have compelled restless city dwellers to move to areas that offer a better sense of safety, security and a yard, if only so that they can shoo the kids outdoors for a few minutes a day, and that's great news for those of us selling real estate in the "burbs." Demand remains high and with fewer restrictions around movement (for the moment), I believe we will see more Buyers heading our way. While some Buyers and Sellers are understandably pausing to see how things shake out, many others are taking this opportunity to take stock, seek opportunity, and make significant changes to their lives. For Sellers, it's been a surprisingly positive response overall so if you are wondering if you should wait to sell? The answer is "No."
Of course, with no Sunday Opens on which to rely, Buyers want to see EVERYTHING in person and that's where things get very tricky. It's not that Agents are opposed to showing you houses, it's that our orders from above (I'm referring to Gavin, not God) mandate that a property can be shown only if it's NOT feasible to see it any other way. With Matteports, virtual tours, photography, video, and Google Earth, it's definitely "feasible" to see a house online. What's not feasible, is to buy a home without stepping foot inside. As my colleague, Rosie, put it: "You can virtually date all you want on Match, Bumble, or Tinder, but if you want to consummate the deal, you're going to have to meet the prospect face to face!"
No doubt, showing a property with bright red warning signs posted out front, masks on, and an Agent following you with Clorox wipes and a can of Lysol spray definitely changes how a person experiences a house. (How could it not?) We know such clinical rules are meant to keep everyone safer, but I have yet to see compelling evidence that traces the spread of Covid-19 back to vacant homes??? (Just sayin'...) Compare the experience of "suiting up" as if you were going into an operating room against a Sunday afternoon Open House with many interested parties casually walking through the rooms while commenting, "This is great, I love how the kitchen leads straight out to the backyard." The latter creates desire, demand and urgency, while the other, although still urgent, adds fear and anxiety to the equation.
That being said, the rules are the rules and there's really no choice but to follow them to the letter. Thus, when the neighbor on my new listing asked if she could possibly peak inside, the answer was "No, I'm sorry, you cannot." The reality is that Coronavirus has unequivocally changed our day-to-day landscape, has DRAMATICALLY affected the way we conduct business, has altered how we interact with friends and family (and neighbors), has put an unwelcome crimp in our vacation plans, AND doesn't appear to be going away anytime too soon . . . Shucks! (I'd like to say more but this is a G-rated column.)
So while I'm not prone to overwhelming fear, like most of us, I'm tired of the overwhelming reality of living alongside Covid-19. But given the stark alternative, perhaps I can edge towards acceptance and surrender - even if it's just one day at a time. Thanks Mike, for the tough love. I'm lacing up my shoes and getting ready for the weekend, although true to form, they might just be combat boots! (Hey, I'm doing my best.)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.