The Interview: Bess Freedman on how resi firms will look post-Covid

Agents have been testing the limits of virtual deal-making

TRD New York TRD ARCHIVE /
May.May 25, 2020 12:00 PM

It’s been six weeks since New York’s residential firms went dark after Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut non-essential workplaces to curb Covid-19 deaths.

In that time, agents have tested the limits of virtual showings and endured a steep drop in deals. Now, major firms are planning the brokerage office of the future — well beyond masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

At Brown Harris Stevens, receptionists will sit behind plexiglass and agents won’t be side-by-side. Instead, work times will be staggered to maintain social distancing. “We’re never going to have a packed office,” Bess Freedman, Brown Harris’ CEO, said in a video conversation with The Real Deal’s E.B. Solomont.

For agents who already took their work on the road, it’s too soon to say how the firm’s need for office space will change, she said. The top priority is agent and client safety, followed by a restarting of an important economic engine.

“People want to get back to work, which I totally understand,” said Freedman, whose firm was one of many that furloughed workers. “There’s an economic issue underlying all this. Sellers need to sell. Buyers want to find properties.”

The ways they sell and buy are destined to change as well. “They may do open houses by appointment,” she said. “Showings are going to be where everyone is social-distancing, everyone is wearing masks and gloves … That is going to have to happen at least through the summer.”


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