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Real estate deals tap technology for virtual tours, closings | Photos

Just because you’re holed up at home under a shelter-in-place order doesn’t mean you can’t search for, tour and close on the home of your dreams — all from the comfort of your living room.

Thanks to virtual tours, online mortgage applications, remote notarization and tech tools like Facetime, real estate agents in South Florida are still conducting business these days.

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“Now, with technology such as smartphones and social media, buyers and sellers are relying a lot more on the internet to guide them, so people are more comfortable with technology,” said Stephan Burke, an executive director of luxury sales for Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Miami Beach.

Burke recently closed on a 2,271-square-foot listing that he held with fellow executive director Carol Cassis. “This buyer was in Europe and could have easily flown in, but he was very comfortable with the technology. From the first showing to the inspection to the walk-through, the buyer trusted the technology and was accepting of it.”

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The buyer, who was in Germany and represented by Elliman agent Marion Ott, was “present” during the transaction through video chats conducted via Facetime.

While Burke’s listing closed virtually because the buyer was out of the United States, the same principles that allowed this transaction to be consummated also apply to selling homes in the age of the coronavirus pandemic.

Real estate practitioners are adjusting their practices to continue to conduct business: from open houses to virtual tours and from in-person closings with all parties around the table to remote closings with online notaries.

Seattle-based real-estate brokerage Redfin recently reported a 494% increase in requests for agent-led video home tours. To respond to the new normal in the real estate business, the company has replaced open houses with three-dimensional scans of nearly every Redfin listing and shifted to electronic closings, where notary services and the entire closing process can be conducted online where permitted by law.

According to the Florida Department of State, remote online notarizations became legal in Florida on Jan. 1, 2020, allowing buyers and sellers to close on a home without actually being in the same room.

That’s exactly what Burke and Cassis did with their listing at 620 N. Shore Drive in Miami Beach, which sold for $750,000 after initially hitting the market in September 2019 for $895,000 and then undergoing several price reductions.

The three-bedroom, two-bath home, built in 1950 in the gated community of Normandy Shores, has a new kitchen and baths, stainless-steel appliances, a Tesla charger and a tropical backyard with an oversized pool and built-in barbecue.

The seller, who is downsizing, purchased the home in December 2014 for $829,000. The new owner has already listed it for rent — at $6,500 per month.

Both Burke and Cassis predict that real estate deals will tap technology even more in the future. “The public is more trusting of the technology,” Burke said. “So people are not afraid to pull the trigger sight unseen.”

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