Written by Andi

Let me start by saying I wasn't really sure if I should write this article or not.

But as the days have gone by, and this situation has continued to escalate, it has become more important to put pen to paper (or, should I say, thoroughly washed fingers to a regularly cleaned keyboard).

Every time I've switched on the news this week, the first story aired has been about the Coronavirus... and the second story, and the third and fourth and so on.

And then on Facebook and Instagram, I have been bombarded with this strange combination of memes -- some that make fun of the human response to this virus, and others that stress how very real and how very dangerous this threat might be.

I have watched people fight over toilet paper, commando roll under supermarket doors, plead from behind masked faces and stock up on canned goods of almost every variety (except chick peas, there are still plenty of chick peas, folks).

Honestly, I'm confused, and I think a lot of people are. We know this virus is real, and particularly for those who are elderly or who have suppressed immune systems, it is scary. But for the rest of us, I'm just not sure whether we should be more worried about the bug or each other.

This week, the AFR, among other media outlets, published an article that suggested real estate deals are starting to fall through as a result of the virus. Media also suggested open houses will suffer, auctions will decline and in general, the market could be set for another really tricky time.

These reports -- just days after the same media outlets shouted messages of property market resilience in the face of the virus -- on the surface felt alarmist and possibly hyperbolised.

But as whole countries basically close their doors, big gatherings are banned, and 'cashed-up foreign buyers' and their reps stop showing up to auctions, could there perhaps be something in this?

Could Coronavirus destroy the real estate market?

OR... perhaps trying to be a little more optimistic, could it just reshape it?

How Covid-19 might affect open homes

The fact of the matter is, for the most part, life needs to go on.

People change jobs, they move cities, they have another child, and, as a result, they need to buy and sell property.

Even in the midst of the property crisis of a few years ago, agents were buoyed by the fact that, though listings were tight, the nature of life in our country essentially means there will be some houses bought and sold most of the time.

So, how do we sell houses -- and buy them -- if it feels dangerous or risky to be in the same room as other people?

For a start, technology is a wonderful thing. And in the case where people don't want to go out much, or touch much, tools like 3D tours -- which have been around for years, but perhaps never found their feet in Australia, like some other countries -- can be a virtual doorway into a home on the market.

Using virtual or 3D tours, buyers can move, at their own pace, through every room of a home. They can even use Google Maps to venture outside into the surrounding neighbourhoods and take a virtual walk.

Agents can also draw on tools like Facebook live. They can walk groups of buyers through a property, room-by-room, step-by-step, pausing to answer questions and reframe the view, zoom in or take a new angle, based on the live comments and requests of those watching. Even better, the entire experience is recorded for access by those who couldn't make the live time.

When it comes to actually seeing the property -- because genuine buyers will likely want to at some stage -- open homes that invite throngs of interested people to visit all at once, are likely going to need to change.

Instead, agents will need to work a little harder -- they will need to arrange scheduled, one-on-one inspections which allow each prospective buyer to visit the property on their own. They will need to ask the buyers to take precautions, like washing hands, not touching anything, wearing masks if need be, as they move through the home.

On-one-hand, this will be a more careful, cumbersome and time-consuming process for agents.

On-the-other, it can become an important and useful part of the sales funnel. At open homes, agents expect to have visits from 'tyre kickers' -- people who aren't really interested, but if the extra effort of booking a one-on-one inspection is required, those who aren't really interested will likely be deterred.

As a buyer, this is also good news for you, as even the appearance of tyre kickers can distort the interest and drive up value.

But what about sellers?

How Coronavirus might affect sales

At Sale Ezy, we have been helping real estate agents auction property for more than 10 years -- and yet, those agents have never needed to leave their office, or wave a gavel around to do so.

They've never needed to ask their potential buyers to be at a place, at a set time, or to leave the comfort of their own homes either.

Online sales and auctions are a popular way to sell properties in countries like the USA, where one of the most prominent sites, auction.com, reports having more than 5.6 million registered buyers and has sold more than US$49 billion in real estate.

These auctions are legally compliant, just as a normal stand up auction is required to be, and they occur remotely, catering even to users whose internet connections 'aren't so great'.

In Australia, our real estate industry is highly regulated. Sale Ezy has been created not just to meet all those regulations, but also to offer a very user-friendly and easy experience for even our least technologically-savvy buyers.

It was designed to meet the needs of a consumer market that was changing.

As buyers, we want more convenience. We want to be able to go to little Jimmy's soccer on Saturday morning, but still bid in an auction. We want to be able to remain on holidays in Greece, but still put in our own offers with no representative.

And now, we want to be able to buy a house, competitively, at auction, or even in a tender situation, without leaving our home.

This is a really strange time, in real estate and in every day life. But it is a time, we all need to rely on the facts as much as they are available, support each other, and give our neighbours a roll of toilet paper if we're lucky enough to have a spare.

Yes, the idea of staying couped up and separated, like so many people in other countries are doing already, is frightening and really not in our nature.

Further, the worry of what will happen to our economy -- and for real estate agents, owners and investors, to our property market, after a decade of fluctuation -- is playing on many minds.

We don't know health or medicine. We aren't scientists or politicians or even economists. But we are reading these articles from AFR and other sources, and we are hearing every day from concerned and uncertain agents.

Real estate, like many industries, might change and it might be affected by this situation -- but there is so much technology (and not just what we have to offer) and so many solutions available if and when we need them.

Look after each other, take only what you need so our more vulnerable people don't miss out, and cue up your Netflix, we might all be staying in for a bit.