Top-producing Chicago brokers talk impact of coronavirus

The brokers share how they’re navigating the uncertainty caused by the virus

TRD CHICAGO /
Mar.March 16, 2020 09:26 AM
From left: Leigh Marcus of @properties, Mario Greco of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago, Jennifer Mills of Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty & Millie Rosenbloom of Baird & Warner

From left: Leigh Marcus of @properties, Mario Greco of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago, Jennifer Mills of Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty & Millie Rosenbloom of Baird & Warner

By market’s close on Friday, four of Chicago’s top-producing luxury residential brokers said they hadn’t been greatly impacted by the coronavirus. But they all believe their fortunes could change quickly, and are making preparations in anticipation of a slowdown.

“It’s interesting because what’s happening right now coincides with one of the best times of the year to buy or sell, and it also coincides with some of the lowest interest rates ever, so the impact is marginal right at this moment,” @properties broker Leigh Marcus told The Real Deal Friday afternoon.

People are still inquiring about properties, setting up showings and listing and buying homes.

For the most part, brokers said the biggest change is the extra precautions they’ve taken to protect themselves and their clients from contagion. There’s a greater emphasis on cleaning, especially high-touch areas like doorknobs, light switches and railings, more handwashing and fewer handshakes.

Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty broker Jennifer Mills has been wearing gloves to every showing and keeps her car stocked with cleaning supplies. Other than that, she was busier than ever last week, but acknowledged that it could soon slow down.

Some clients are being even more cautious, especially those who are most at risk of contracting the virus or more susceptible to its economic impact.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago broker Mario Greco experienced his first two instances of “virus-induced decision making” last week. A buyer who planned to go under contract Monday morning decided not to move forward out of fear of losing his job, and another buyer decided to hold off because he’s worried he won’t be able to sell his current home, so he removed his listing and is staying put for now.

“I think this is just the beginning, frankly,” Greco said, adding that another listing was removed Thursday because the buyers were worried about contagion.

“It’s hard to not start to think that this is going to get worse before it gets better, just because totally rational people are making decisions based on unknowns,” Greco said.

He thinks the uncertainty will lead to at least a momentary pause and then buyers will jump back into the market to take advantage of the interest rates when potential solutions become more apparent.

Greco said he has sold almost 100 properties since January, a record-breaking pace in his nearly 20-year career, so coronavirus’ impact should be pretty apparent based on whatever happens with his sales in the next month or so.

The brokers TRD spoke with stressed the importance of staying calm, reducing panic and continuing to guide clients through the process.

Greco likened it to the housing crisis of 2008, when he said he was more of a psychiatrist than a realtor. Mills and Millie Rosenbloom of Baird & Warner equated what’s happening now due to coronavirus to what happened as a result of 9/11.

Marcus agreed that it’s important for brokers to continue to be “the calming force in a transaction.”

“People are looking to us to know what’s really going on, and we need to continue to maintain our level of calm and level-headedness throughout this whole thing,” he said. “This is not a time to panic at all. This is a time to be logical and follow instructions and demands.”


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