During the first week of July, Governor Cuomo announced that Long Island was ready to enter Phase 4 of the economy reopening, as the state recovers from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Real estate agents went from working from an isolated home office environment with no physical interaction with others, to selling real estate in person within a set of NY State regulations. These have included obtaining signed disclosures concerning the risks of entering homes amid a pandemic, statements concerning health and interaction with others prior to coming to the house, or contact tracing, along with supervising the way that homes are shown, and how agents and customers are equipped for everyone’s safety.
Showings, which have been plentiful, have been framed with ensuring that the occupant(s) of homes, whether by a seller, renter or guests, are done with care, including having a limit of two customers touring inside at a time and having personal protection, fresh gloves, masks and in some cases shoe coverings or no shoes at all. One home showing by a cooperating broker had six individuals entering the house at a time without complete personal protection, which resulted in my having to sanitize doorknobs and banisters with antiviral cleaning solvent. Another showing to a customer was interrupted by an unplanned visitor, a friend of a prospective buyer, walking into the house without a mask or gloves or any prior introduction, which resulted in a call from the police department from an inquiry by the tenant. And there have been multiple instances of customers who admitted they were in quarantine from a “red zone” state who in several cases were not wearing personal protection. “Everyone is doing it,” one customer told their broker in a home owned by a seller in their 80s, “but we are being careful.”
At the first few houses I showed with new customers right after Phase 4 rolled out, I went through what felt like a pint of hand sanitizer, including slathering it on my gloves. I wore medium gloves over smaller sized gloves, and wiped down my phone after each showing. When I returned to my car, I said a prayer that I would not get sick. After 10 days of continuous showings and getting my protocols in place, shopping for comfortable face masks with charcoal inserts, peeling gloves off with aplomb into a covered plastic container in the rear of my car, and buying multi sized gloves and disposable masks for my customers, I felt more confident about protecting myself, my customers and sellers.
In recent years, customers have preferred to communicate through email or text, but during the pandemic, many are now preferring to speak on the phone or meet even if at a safe distance, to express their real estate goals. The fundamentals are the same: the type of home, location, size etc. but there are nuances now of wanting security for oneself or one’s family, a safe haven, and a setting removed from others and surrounded by nature that are expressed poignantly.
A long time contact said to me recently, “it’s like the first week at summer camp,” referring to all of the new people on Shelter Island. “Let’s stitch some lanyards together! Everyone wants to know what it’s like to live here all year around. Shelter Island is experiential living at its best.”
In the sales market, the trend is favoring sellers with the majority of listings currently in contract at strong prices. Each week since the beginning of July, properties are going into contract with little negotiation. The homes considered move-in ready, needing few repairs, lead the market. Although there is limited inventory, there are still excellent opportunities in homes for sale with many “sleeper” listings that for one reason or another, are not focused on. A few listings that had been on the market for longer than three years have gone into contract to excited buyers. Toward the end of August, when a majority of these properties close and the information becomes public record, the number of transactions and the sold prices on Shelter Island will be as impressive as 2006 in totality, if not more so.
The rental market has never been better on Shelter Island, with one month or more leases and very few short term rentals. Customers are now beginning to make rental plans for the off-season, and Landlords are beginning to set prices for their homes. Similar to this past spring, there are no historic prices to guide an owner, so prices vary widely. During the spring, the Landlords who rented last seemed to lease at the highest rates.
There is new enthusiasm for year around living on Shelter Island. The school enrollment has increased from prior years. The hopes and dreams that the exodus from other more heavily populated places has breathed new life to our little locale amid a time that is uncertain for us all. The one certainty is that our Shelter Island community will embrace those, albeit virtually, who move here for a little bit of serenity.