by SC Reporter Reese Holiday
The coronavirus pandemic has affected businesses and industries since shutdowns began in March, but realtors on Sanibel have found ways to adapt during a busy off-season.
Typically, Sanibel realtors experience a slow influx of buyers towards the end of summer and beginning of fall, according to Kingfisher Real Estate Broker Phaidra McDermott. However, this year’s off-season has seen an unusual number of people interested in the island’s property.
“This is typically a time of year when it is very quiet,” McDermott said. “However, this year we’ve experienced, since about mid-May, an unusually active off-season.”
Another Sanibel Broker, Sarah Ashton from Keller Williams Realty, said that the island’s off-season happens around this time due to the numerous amounts of tropical cyclones that form during the region’s hurricane season.
“Typically, this time of year, we don’t have as many transactions as we’re seeing because usually during hurricane season, or the tail end of hurricane season, people aren’t really down here to take a look,” Ashton said. “This year, we found it to be quite a bit different.”
When discussing the number of buyers on the island during this time, Ashton noted that interest rates are lower than they were previously, attracting more people to buy property. She also noted that Sanibel’s weather could be playing a role as well.
“We are definitely seeing that people want to have their place in the sun,” Ashton said. “I think that folks are a little concerned about being shut in all winter and being cold and not able to really go out to restaurants and be out and feel safe.”
Along with the weather, Bill Robinson, a chief executive officer for Sanibel and Captiva Islands Association of Realtors, said that the appeal of working from home on some of the island’s property is a better option than what some potential buyers have experienced with remote work.
“It made it a lot easier for people to work remotely and I think that added to the fact that why not come to Sanibel and Captiva if you’re going to work remotely,” Robinson said.
Although this attraction of potential buyers to the island has been a pleasant surprise for some Sanibel realtors, different manners of connecting with clients had to be put in place in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
One of these new methods, according to McDermott, is conducting virtual tours where realtors walk potential buyers through the house that they are interested in.
“We’ve had a number of sales on the island, and at Kingfisher, that have basically been precured through virtual tours,” McDermott said.
However, because buyers can’t physically see or be in the selling property during these virtual tours, realtors have had to answer more complex questions so that buyers could get a better feel for the property, according to Ashton.
“Instead of just walking through and kind of getting an ambiance and a feel for the place, people are getting very detailed,” Ashton said.
Another method that is used in order to keep realtors and buyers safe is the online searching and buying of homes. This method is not new, however, and was used prior to the start of the pandemic, according to Ashton. Now, it is being used more and more for both convenience and safety purposes.
“People have been starting their search for property online, even before the pandemic,” Ashton said. “But what’s happening now is that because people don’t feel quite as comfortable just hopping on a plane and flying down here to look at things, what they’re doing is, a lot of them are doing, they’re looking at things virtually.”
With a lot of house searching and buying being done online now, more information is readily available for buyers that wasn’t as accessible as before. Robinson said that some people may take that information and think that a realtor isn’t necessary. However, he still believes that experts are essential to selling a home properly.
“I think because the more technology that comes out there, people think they’re experts in the market just because they have that information in front of them,” Robinson said. “But I think what it really takes is somebody that’s been in the business, somebody that has learned the market, that particular market, not just the market overall.”
With Sanibel realtors adapting to how they sell homes and interact with clients, Mike Badenoch, the president of Sanibel and Captiva Islands Association of Realtors, said that the members of his association are following all of the rules to keep realtors and buyers safe, additionally noting that many members could experience record years during this unusually busy off-season.
“They followed the guidelines,” Badenoch said. “They’ve continued doing business, and it’s going to be, I think, a record-breaking year for most of our members.”