A Realtor Reflects On The Impact Of Lockdown On Her Business

May 9, 2020
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is a conversation many real estate brokers have had to have recently.

MARILYN RIVERA TORRES: The client just called me and said, I need to cancel this contract.

SIMON: Just when they were about to close on a sale, a contract was canceled - another economic effect of the coronavirus pandemic and one that Marilyn Rivera Torres knows. She's a broker for MRT Real Estate in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

RIVERA TORRES: We don't know how long this is going to last. It's kind of difficult, especially for me because I'm already running out of money.

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SIMON: Puerto Rico's governor imposed a curfew in mid-March and shut down nonessential businesses. Marilyn Rivera Torres says a few of the deals she had in process before that lockdown have completely sunk. Most others are in limbo. Starting new real estate deals has become a problem, too. Now that some businesses on the island are reopening, social distancing protocols have to be observed. One workaround that realtors in other parts of the U.S. have used, video tours, does not work for Marilyn Rivera Torres.

RIVERA TORRES: Puerto Rico has a lot of mountains, small roads, a lot of curves. Some property - they are amazing, and they're beautiful, but 95% of my clients are Americans from the mainland. They are not used to that. They want to make sure that they are comfortable driving to the property where they are going to live. So it's, you know, difficult to show it on the videos.

SIMON: Marilyn Rivera Torres says another problem for her and other realtors is confusion over the governor's latest executive order, this one allowing some nonessential businesses to resume.

RIVERA TORRES: The governor is trying to open the economy slowly. When she said the announcement on TV, she mentioned real estate. But when the law came out in writing, they forgot to put us there. So right now, for example, we cannot show houses from - that are bank-owned because if it's not in writing by the governor, the banks are not going to take the risk to let us go in the houses and show them.

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RIVERA TORRES: We're still waiting for the law to be amended so we can go out and start showing houses. But I'm going to be protected. I'm going to have my mask. I'm going to have my gloves. And I'm going to make sure that the people that go to see the house also have their masks and the gloves. Also, there cannot be more than two people. Kids are not allowed, of course. And they cannot touch anything, only look, keeping the distance. But the problem here is that it's been very, very, very difficult for us due to the inefficiency of the government.

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SIMON: Marilyn Rivera Torres is a broker with MRT Real Estate in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.