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What the CEO says: 'Yes, they are selling homes virtually'

Each Friday, Robbie Briggs, president and CEO of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty, writes about luxury, trends, business and more in the advertising pages of the Mansion section of The Wall Street Journal. Below is his letter of June 5, 2020.  FROM MY PERSPECTIVE A rebound, in more ways than one “We closed on a house yesterday, and we’ll see it for the first time in person tomorrow.” Welcome to an intriguing new facet of our business. That house — a cool Craftsman-style bungalow in Dallas — was listed by one of our agents here and bought by a couple in New York. The sale made the local news. Why? Because it was all done via cell phones and video. It gets better. That was the second home that that same agent sold remotely that week. (Those particular buyers were from California.) It’s a virtual new reality out there. Our agents — all 400-plus of them across North Texas — have adapted to every twist and turn that the global pandemic has thrown them. They are marketing homes using virtual-reality tours. They are showing homes using their cell-phone video cameras. And, yes, they are selling homes virtually, too, via closings that happen on video, with documents that are signed online. Our agents have been able to work with our buyers and sellers virtually — and safely — throughout this wild time. This adaptability is one reason why the luxury home market is gaining strength and speed. Home showings in Texas are back to 2019 levels, according to Showingtime.com, which tracks house tours in most U.S. states. For-purchase mortgage applications in Texas have surpassed 2019 levels by 20 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Our brokerage’s sales are climbing. In fact, in May, we saw weekly sales outpace some of the same weeks of last May. There is good news from Mansion Global, too, the premier digital destination about the global real estate market. Last week it reported that “luxury inventory has bounced back from the depths of the crisis in parts of Texas and in Colorado’s cities and high-end ski communities — two states that were early to reopen their economies.” In Dallas and Fort Worth, it said, “the number of million-dollar-plus homes on the market rose 10% or more from the depths of the crisis through mid-May.” The rebound is here. It’s time to buy or sell. I love what one agent says in the Mansion Global story. She’s been selling homes since the 1970s in the San Francisco/Oakland area, one of the nation’s first hotspots for the coronavirus and now one of the first to see its housing market recover. “Everyone expected demand to go nowhere,” she says. “This is like the most competitive market we’ve ever had, but on steroids.” Robbie Briggs President and CEO, Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty rbriggs@briggsfreeman.com

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