What are real estate brokerages doing in Tokyo during the pandemic?

With school closures, event cancellations and telecommuting becoming the new normal for us over the several weeks, let’s take a look at how Tokyo’s real estate industry is (or isn’t) doing its part to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

Events:

Mandatory professional training seminars that are held for realtors several times a year have been cancelled so far. 

Some developers have cancelled or postponed large-scale sales events. 

Open houses and inspections: 

Last night the governor of Tokyo requested that residents in Tokyo refrain from making any non-essential outdoor trips this coming weekend in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Private viewings are still occurring, and several major brokerages are still holding open houses over the weekends. Hopefully, brokerages consider cancelling or rescheduling the upcoming open houses.

Some real estate companies are continuing to hold investment and tax seminars, some for up to 30 ~ 50 guests. Others have switched to online seminars using Zoom and Skype.

On the rental side, some companies have introduced smart-locks to allow prospective tenants to conduct their own inspections.

Showrooms for new projects:

Developers have started to limit sales activity this month, although many showrooms remain open. Showrooms generally operate under a reservation system, allowing only a small number of prospective buyers in for appointments each day. Any large scale events involving crowds of people are generally off the cards (although some big events have taken place) as the government encourages businesses to postpone large gatherings.

Sales staff wear masks. Some measure their temperature each day.

Interested buyers are asked to refrain from visiting the showrooms if they are showing signs of a fever or cold, have been in contact with any infected persons, or have been overseas within the past 14 days. 

Real estate offices:

Other countries, faced with surging coronavirus cases, are ordering the temporary closure of non-essential businesses and that includes real estate brokerages. On March 20, the governor of New York ordered real estate agents to stop showing homes. On March 24, the Australian Prime Minister issued a ban on real estate auctions and open houses nationwide, although private inspections are still permitted. 

There have been no directives from industry associations or local government to close non-essential businesses in Tokyo at this stage, although there has been growing encouragement of working from home. In terms of implementing telecommuting, Japan’s real estate industry has the third-worst implementation rate after the service and postal industry.

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