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NYC Phase 2 Real Estate: Rules and Tips for Safe Home Searching

COVID-19 + NYC Real Estate

Guides, resources, and stories about New York City real estate and COVID-19. Are you an agent? See our COVID-19 resources for real estate professionals.
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NYC Phase 2 real estate rules allow for in-person showings — with strict safety measures. (Getty Images)

As of this week, New York City reaches Phase 2 of its reopening, which means that home shopping can regain a semblance of normalcy. Just in time for peak summer rentals season, New Yorkers may now visit prospective homes in person, as long as everyone takes mandatory precautions. This isn’t quite a full return to normal: standard open houses, and other group showings, are not yet permitted. And there are a host of state regulations for agents, tenants, sellers, and shoppers to follow. But like that first professional haircut after months of quarantine, this change will certainly feel good if you’re in the market for a new NYC apartment. Here’s a guide to state rules, plus StreetEasy tips, for NYC Phase 2 real estate.

Note: This guide is intended for general information purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and is not a comprehensive list of the state’s interim guidance. Please read the full guidance.

With NYC in Phase 2, Can I Shop for Homes in Person?

Yes, NYC Phase 2 real estate rules permit visiting homes in person. However, home shopping won’t be like it used to be. State rules suggest home shoppers view walkthrough videos and virtual tours before visiting a home in person. When they do visit in person, the state has laid out these health guidelines:

  • State rules “encourage only one party (e.g. building inspector, home appraiser, prospective tenant/buyer, photographer, stager) to be allowed inside the property at a time. If more than one party is inside the property at the same time, six feet of distance must be maintained at all times between individuals, and face coverings must be worn.”
  • The guidance encourages that showings should be booked by appointment, so that each party of shoppers can see the unit alone. Agents should also stagger viewing times to avoid people congregating outside a home.
  • The guidance encourages renters/buyers “not to bring young children or extraneous guests to property showings.” If they do come, state rules suggest they wait outside, with any young children attended.
  • Inside a home, shoppers should be advised to “only touch essential surfaces,” such as stair handrails, and avoid touching inessential surfaces, like countertops, cabinets, and appliances.
  • Agents or brokers are required to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and handrails before and after each showing.
  • When viewing a home in person, the state recommends skipping common areas like roof decks, gyms, and pools. “If the common areas mentioned above are shown, [agents or brokers] must ensure that those areas are frequently cleaned and disinfected and appropriate social distancing of six feet is maintained for all parties at all times.”
  • Guidelines suggest that home shoppers avoid riding in the same car as their agent or broker. If this can’t be avoided, everyone in the car should wear face coverings, and car interior surfaces should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Note that this is just a partial list of the state guidelines for home showings.

Manhattan and Brooklyn 1-2BRs Under $3K With Video Tours on StreetEasy Article continues below

Tips for In-Person Home Searching Under NYC Phase 2 Real Estate Rules

Keep these tips in mind when you’re shopping for homes under NYC’s Phase 2 rules:

Do Take a Virtual Tour First

Virtual tours save a lot of time and trouble for everyone in this time of extensive health precautions — including you. Check out prospective homes through a screen first, and only visit in person if you think the place might really be for you.

Do Book an Appointment to See the Home

Traditional open houses, where you arrive within a given period and tour a home with others who stop by, are discouraged by state guidelines. Even for an “Open House,” try to book a specific time slot with the agent when you can view the home unaccompanied.

Do Bring Your Own PPE and Leave Nonessential People at Home

Face coverings, of course, are required, especially when you’re unable to fully social distance. Gloves and shoe covers are polite (and recommended). And try to leave any kids, friends, parents, or other non-decision makers behind when you go to view a unit — or at least park them outside.

Don’t Go Inside If Others Are in There

For everyone’s safety, the state mandates that only one “party” should be in a home at a given time. A party is you and your partner, or you and your roommates — or another group of shoppers. So if anyone else is in the unit, wait until they leave before going in.

Don’t Touch Anything Inside the Home Unless You Need To

This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often people absent-mindedly touch surfaces like a bathroom counter or a sink faucet, or drape their jacket over a piece of furniture. It’s certainly OK to use the handrail on stairways, and to open doors if you need to, but don’t touch anything inessential, and don’t let your stuff touch it, either.

Manhattan and Brooklyn 1-2BRs Under $800K With Video Tours on StreetEasy Article continues below

Don’t Linger Unnecessarily If Others Are Waiting to Get In

The rule that only one party should see a home a time will likely mean that other shoppers have to do some (socially distanced) waiting outside. And no one, especially a New Yorker, enjoys waiting. So when it is your turn to go in, remember the folks outside, and take only the time inside the home that you need.

Do Talk With Your Agent Afterward in an Open, Distanced Setting

After you see the home, you may want to speak with an agent — either the broker on the listing or your own buyer’s agent. Make sure to do it in a place where you can maintain social distance from each other, and from anyone else around. Huddling in a small lobby or courtyard might not work well for this. And of course, enclosed indoor spaces are out of the question. It’s not a bad idea to think through where to hold a post-tour conversation as you get close to the home.

Is StreetEasy’s Days on Market Counter Accurate?

During the pandemic, with normal real estate activity largely halted, StreetEasy stopped showing the number of days a listing had been on the market. However, the counter resumed on the day New York City entered Phase 2 of its reopening.

The period from March 22 (when shelter-in-place orders took effect) until Phase 2 has been counted as one day. A notice will appear next to the Days on Market counter for any StreetEasy listing posted prior to March 22, notifying consumers of this change.


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