Mar 12, 20By Sam Morales

By now, you are currently on top of the latest development about the coronavirus spreading first in Metro Manila, and now to other major provinces as well. The current novel coronavirus or COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization, is determined as the cause of the respiratory illness outbreak, which was first detected in Wuhan, China. As of this writing, there are 49 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, and both national and local health measures have been rolled out in efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.

But depending on which news or update you are following, there is certain fear not only on getting the virus but on the performance of your real estate investments. Whether you are eyeing to make your first real estate investment, or already have one, read on.

On the rental economy

In early February, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said that the prolonged health crisis will definitely have economic implications not just in the Philippines, but worldwide. With tourism making up 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product or GDP (450 billion pesos), the pandemic has already started prompt rebookings or cancellations on rentals, and in effect reducing rental income.

And if the pandemic persists, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) expressed that initial estimates show the Philippine economy could stand to lose up to 0.7 percent of GDP or a whopping 133 billion pesos. The travel ban, which is currently in effect in affected countries like China, for example, among other health policies in effect are forecasted to reduce 10 percent in visitors and will then reduce economic production by 11 billion pesos -- all in one month. The agency said it is expected that the numbers will be higher should there be an increase in new COVID-19 cases. 

It is unclear if an increase in domestic tourism could help stave off the numbers, but one could help, this could at least keep the rental income going. And if the pandemic has yet to hit its peak while the economic reductions have already taken into effect, what will happen then especially to real estate properties that are yet to be paid in full? Whether if it means potential home loan defaults, an increase in interest expenses to shoulder or additional loans on top of an existing mortgage, the decision should be made evident.

On the real estate profession

In the hopes of curbing the coronavirus infection in the Philippines, social distancing as a safety measure is encouraged to many Filipinos. This can be bad for real estate professionals who need to physically meet their clients to help them towards their property purchases. 

The risk of spreading the virus has already made people wary about anything related to contact - accepting fliers, going to trippings and even meeting with real estate brokers. While the Internet and social media have helped real estate agents and brokers still carry on their work towards real estate sales, it presents a new challenge for real estate professionals on how to present and represent their clients while retaining a personal touch.

Agents who continue to engage with prospective clients in person will definitely take every safety measure just like a local business will do: install hand sanitizers or alcohol, wear gloves, distribute disinfectant wipes or mini versions of hand sanitizer or alcohol with their name or calling card on it, to wiping down every surface of their booths or show houses every after tripping visit to protect the next batch of prospective clients. 

And then there’s technology. Real estate ad platforms like Signet Properties have introduced listing and property page technologies to not only provide customers the information they need to make informed decisions but also present real estate agents and brokers as experienced, transparent real estate professionals. Aside from the smart and tech advancements introduced in the website, real estate professionals who signed up and list under Signet Properties can also reap the benefits of promotional efforts for the latter to keep up with the buying demand in its platform, such as featured property promotions, lead qualification, and verification services, and online customer service.

While physical interaction and engagement are always preferred in the real estate business, it is still up to everyone in the industry, from the real estate agents, brokers, to property owners, to make accommodations and keep the industry going. COVID-19 seems to be a scary threat to not just the real estate industry, but to our way of life, but it is up to us on what changes we can do to cope and strive in this pandemic.