Preventing another NYC shutdown relies on the real estate industry

Preventing another NYC shutdown relies on the real estate industry
Published on Nov 12, 2020,11:47 am by Frederick Peters for

The coronavirus remains contained in most of our city. New Yorkers must commit to keeping it that way. This week, New York State ranked 49th out of 51 states (including the District of Columbia) in coronavirus positivity rates, at under 1.5% overall. New York City fared a little worse, with an overall positivity rate of around 2%. What is more troubling, however, is the fact that the number of cases is increasing across the city every week. Most of Central and Lower Manhattan continues to have positivity rates below 1.5%; there are a few pockets in Upper Manhattan where the positivity rate exceeds 2% and one zip code in which the rate exceeds 3.5%.

Overall, Manhattan residents are holding their own as cases spiral out of control in much of the country. Hopefully we New Yorkers learned our lesson in March and April, and we will remain masked and socially distanced for the foreseeable future. No one (including the Pfizer PFE -2.3% CEO) expects a vaccine to be in wide circulation before the second or third quarter of 2021. In the meantime, we real estate agents keep showing and selling apartments.

The last two weeks were slow in real estate, no doubt because of the election. Now that the results have been calculated, we are seeing a flow of buyers return to the marketplace. Even as inventory levels continue to rise while absorption accelerates, prices on larger units stabilize at lower levels than the city has seen in almost a decade. It’s a brave new world.

We understand now that there may not be a return to “normal” as the world understood that word before the pandemic. A new normal, perhaps involving masks in certain situations and care about what and whom we touch and what we sterilize, will gradually descend on us. But as much as the virus, New Yorkers fear seeing the city shut down again. The economic and personal consequences of such a necessity defy description. Countless additional businesses would fail. Mental health would deteriorate further, as would infrastructure. To some degree, the possible outcomes remain in our hands as citizens.

President-elect Biden will not regard New York City as an “anarchist jurisdiction” and will almost certainly open the tap of federal relief money. While that will help the city to recover, nothing will take the place of functioning businesses generating revenue and paying taxes. That’s the part that requires our attention.

In the residential real estate business, every showing is accompanied by an exchange of COVID forms certifying that none of the participants have been sick or been (to the best of their knowledge) exposed to someone who was sick within the past two weeks. Many buildings in which we show have a service person at the door taking temperatures. Elevators are mostly limited to no more than two people, and mostly no one will get into an elevator with a stranger in it. And we are all masked, all the time, from the moment we meet the client or arrive at the building until we elbow bump and say goodbye.

We can do this. We can continue to operate our business while remaining as safe as possible. But we need to do it together. Our hands washed, our sanitizer in our pockets or handbags, our masks, plain or decorative, close at hand to be donned the moment we come into contact with any person outside our household, we can keep our city functioning and keep heading towards recovery. It’s up to us.