The real estate agents resume the activity of a half-gasked office and some already organize visits to flats despite not being allowed yet

The real estate agencies are part of the businesses that this Monday, May 4, have been able to resume their activity in the offices, provided they meet certain size and health characteristics. However, some do not plan to open normally until May 11. This is the date on which apartments may be revisited according to the interpretation made by the General Council of the Official Colleges of Real Estate Agents (COAPI) of the latest provisions in the state of alarm generated by the coronavirus health crisis . However, some of them are already taking potential clients to visit flats.

The order published in the Official State Gazette is that from this Monday all retail establishments and commercial and professional services activities whose activity would have been suspended after the declaration of the state of alarm can be reopened to the public, with the exception of those that They have an area of ​​more than 400 square meters, or those that are inside a shopping center. Nothing is specifically clarified about activities such as real estate visits, so some agents have gathered that they can already make visits to empty properties.

"I understand that you can make concerted visits, although I will try not to overdo it," explains Isabel, owner of a small real estate company that works in the northwest of Madrid, and who assures that she has worn a mask and gloves in the only one she has done so far. , like the person interested in buying. In his case, he states that the office itself will not open it until June, but it will continue to make these visits.

There are more real estate agents who also consider that they can already visit real estate. Javier, a 36-year-old publicist, explains that this Tuesday he saw an advertisement on a real estate portal of a flat in the center of Madrid that interested him. He sent an email and soon they answered him from a real estate agency to go see him this Wednesday, although they also sent him a document or a pass to show on paper that he had an appointment, although in a business premises. You have met the real estate agent directly on the floor. Each one went with his gloves and mask. "He told me that the issue of whether or not visits could be made had been left in limbo, but that with the document there would be no problem if the police asked me why I was away from home outside of my time slot", Explain.

As for the apartment, he relates that it is a property that was previously sold on Airbnb and that they have now decided to dedicate to long-term rental. He believes that he will be able to negotiate a reduction in the rent, although they have remarked that now the economic-labor profile of the tenant is more important, since future non-payments are more feared.

The truth is that the legal department of the General Council of the Official Associations of Real Estate Agents is clear that the regulations authorize the sector to open its offices and serve clients by appointment, but not to make visits to properties. In this sense, the Council clarifies that "probably and if there is no contrary indication, visits to buildings may be made from the 11th day, with the security and hygiene measures that the Government provides." When the Ministry of Health was consulted on this matter, it merely sends the reopening order of businesses published by the BOE.

For this reason, real estate agents such as Gilmar have decided not to open their offices until that date, "in addition to being the day that it seems that visits to houses for sale are authorized, it is when we can guarantee security for all our clients," explains Javier Castellano , director of communication. In their case, they have begun to perform serological tests on all their employees, and when they start the activity, they will provide a protection "kit" with gloves, mask and booties, which will be carried by both the real estate agents and the potential buyers.

The Molet real estate agency does not plan to open its office until day 11, although it initially contemplated doing so from day 4. Its owner, Eduardo Molet, affirms that he prefers to wait this week until visits can resume. He explains that in any case, owners and interested people are still afraid of making physical contact. In this regard, it highlights the hygiene and protection measures they have prepared (partitions, masks, gloves and gel, etc.). And he affirms that they have pending "many visits to value flats of older people who want to sell the bare property" (which consists of selling the rights to that property but with the right to remain in it until death).

He acknowledges that his vision of the near future is not optimistic, and believes that the offices with less muscle will not endure without selling, a case that ensures that it is not their own. "The market is very cruel and puts supply and demand in their place," says Molet. His opinion is that 25% of the 120,000 real estate companies in Spain could close.

For his part, according to Efe, the spokesman for the Federation of Real Estate Agencies (FAI), José María Alfaro, "today there are more real estate agencies that have been unable to open than those that have", because "they did not compensates "or because they are still providing the protection material established in the ministerial order published yesterday and organizing the protocols.

The real estate companies that have embraced ERTE also have to make the hours of operation for the public compatible with measures to reduce working hours. This means that, for example, in the Alfaro office, located in Alcorcón (Madrid), they have chosen to open only four hours a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, rotating the staff to make it compatible with the 30% of the day they can do. .

Alfaro assures that in his agency the drop in calls has been over 80%, with a little more movement in rents, and that the market stagnation is "very clear".

Attention to over 65 years

Other real estate companies, such as Aedas Homes or Habitat Inmobiliaria, have reopened their offices by appointment. The General Council of the Official Colleges of Real Estate Agents specifies that in order to resume the activity, an appointment system must be established to guarantee that there is only one single client per worker; individualized attention with due physical separation and organizing attention time slots to avoid that those over 65 years of age coincide with the rest of the clients, among other indications included in the regulations.

As following phases of the de-escalation, in what concerns their sector, they detail that from May 11 to June 10, "in the absence of an express prohibition, it is understood the possibility of making visits to buildings as part of the activity economic of the small commerce, but only and exclusively in the provincial scope, since the displacements outside the province where the activity is developed are not allowed ".

However, and for the time being at this stage the free movement of people will continue to be restricted, the Council recommends documenting justification for each transfer, visit and meeting with third parties to avoid possible sanctions.

As of June 11, it is understood that mobility is reached throughout the national territory for any professional activity and the recovery of normal activity in the sector. In any case, the Government has warned of the possibility that there are provinces that are progressing more slowly, based on sanitary criteria, as well as that movements could be restricted to the interior of each province.

A sector severely affected by the coronavirus crisis

This type of business is highly affected by the coronavirus crisis, given that there is currently a paralysis in real estate operations, which could continue over time. There are analyzes that estimate that 15,000 of these businesses It could end up closing due to the situation generated.

For the moment, according to sources in the sector, real estate agents are negotiating a discount with the idealistic and Fotocasa portals, which they pay to insert a certain number of ads. In some cases what they are offering is to upload their entire catalog. Despite this, between 15% and 20% of professional advertisers have been forced to withdraw their ads, according to the aforementioned sources. An idealista spokesperson points out that what is relevant with the ads is not the number, but how many houses are advertised (usually the same home is repeated with several agencies) "and although some agencies have withdrawn some ads, the housing offer remains similar during the last month, "they say.

"In fact, today we have published a study that confirms that two out of three professionals have continued to work and market their homes during confinement. The most sophisticated and professional agencies continue to work and publish their portfolio. The one that did not bet on digitization is having the worst of it and she is the one who thinks, erroneously, that if she cannot show the apartments why announce them, without realizing that the houses are being sold by other agencies, "they emphasize.


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