The real estate industry reacting quickly to the coronavirus, creating a workaround to show properties.
Logan and Debbie Gray are just as tech savvy as the next couple.
But the once-and-future Mid-Southerners recently took it to a new level in the name of safety and necessity. The Grays retired and left the Memphis area 12 years ago after having spent most of their lives here. They returned to visit family on holidays and special occasions, only to head back to their Ocala, Florida, development reserved for those 55 and older.
Not long afterward, they felt the pull.
“Coming back (to Florida after last Christmas) was really hard,” said Debbie. “We’ve had a great time (in Florida). (But) we were ready to move back home and be closer to parents, children, grandchildren.”
So, the couple put their home in the Stone Creek community up for sale, then left Feb. 5 on a five-week cruise to Australia and New Zealand. They thought they would be back long before the house sold. Ten days into their excursion, however, they received a contract. The Grays began the house-hunting process half-a-world away.
“We found the house (we liked) and negotiated the contract on our cell from the Great Barrier Reef,” Debbie said.
The couple assumed the rest would be easy: They would return to the United States on March 14, make a trip or two to Oakland in Fayette County to finalize the deal, then begin the physical move. But nothing since early March has been easy in the United States. That’s when the effects of the coronavirus pandemic impacted the country en masse, making social distancing and self-quarantining the norm.
The show had to go on, though. So, with the help of their real estate agent, the Grays used technology to move the process along.
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Melissa Thompson, vice president of Crye Leike Realtors, on Monday, March 30, 2020, in Oakland. (Photo: Max Gersh / The Commercial Appeal)
“I FaceTime’d with them,” said Melissa Thompson, a real estate agent for Crye-Leike. “We spent probably an hour on FaceTime (on March 19). I walked through the house, walked down the street, drove around the neighborhood. Normal photos make it tough sometimes, so I kind of gave them the whole layout of the subdivision and could give them different angles inside the house.
“It’s so rare that people will do that, because they have the capability of being there. But (the coronavirus) could be changing things. It kind of forces your hand.”
The Grays eventually decided against the home they toured virtually, mostly due to concerns over the yard, proving there’s really no substitute for the firsthand experience. Instead, Logan and Debbie found what they were looking for right around the corner. But, without a strong WiFi signal, a couple of electronic devices and a whole lot of trust in Thompson, they would likely have found themselves in a precarious position made even more uncomfortable given the uncertain times.
“We got a good walk-through,” Debbie said last week. “I was on my iMac, which has like a 20-inch screen, so that helped. And we’ve got a long-standing relationship with Melissa. I wouldn’t have thrown a dart and just picked any Realtor out of the blue. There’s no way.”
Reach reporter Jason Munz at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @munzly.
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