Homes for sale: Protocol has changed, but local Realtors are staying busy


BEMIDJI -- The internet has changed the game for Realtors over the past couple of decades, but never has it been more critical than during the coronavirus pandemic. Homes are still being listed and sold in the Bemidji area as the typically busy spring season arrives. However, how that all happens has changed.

“Our governor was wise to call real estate an essential service,” said Doug Fuller, broker at Real Living First Realty in Bemidji. “Right now the market in Bemidji is actually holding its own. We are seeing houses continue to go under contract. I think that’s because we haven’t seen the serious impacts that so many other communities have.”

The process of selling homes has changed in a number of ways. Open houses hosted by agents have been eliminated, replaced by virtual tours. When homes are shown, several safety precautions are taken.

“You have to keep people safe,” said Mark Dickinson, broker at Century 21 Dickinson Realtors in Bemidji. “We still show houses, of course. But we ask the sellers to turn the lights on before we get to the home so we don’t have to be touching light switches and things like that, and we make sure things get wiped down after we’ve been there.”

Before those showings are scheduled, many potential buyers are filtering their choices on the internet.


“Our online activity is actually higher now than we’ve seen in past years, but there’s also more people sitting at home and doing that,” said Doug Hoover, broker at Counselor Realty in Bemidji. “This is just a guess, but I would say there’s about a quarter of the people who are saying with everything that’s going on, I don’t want anything to do with going into a house or meeting people. And then probably a quarter of our sellers are saying I don’t want anybody in my house, because I don’t know where they’re coming from, or who they've been in contact with.”

But Hoover added that real estate activity remains strong. In the past week, he has listed six houses for sale and sold three or four.

“We still have a huge influx of people moving here for jobs, just like normal,” he said. “Bemidji is a hub. A lot of our sales we’ve seen this past week are people transferring into the area. About half of our sellers are moving out of the area, also for jobs.”

Still, the "stay at home" order by Gov. Tim Walz has had an impact.

“Up until the (stay at home) rules were put into place, things were really starting to pop,” said Rob Elliott, broker at Grimes Realty in Bemidji. “This has certainly put a damper on the market, which we knew it would. It just depends on how long we have to hold out before we can let everybody know that we’re good to go and we’re clear. But if someone does want to come out and meet with the agent, we are doing every step we can to make sure everybody walks away safe and healthy.”

Real estate transactions include more than just buyers, sellers and Realtors.

“There are movers scheduled, there are jobs involved, there’s relocation involved,” Fuller said. “Lots of planning, dollars, people’s lives. If all of a sudden we weren’t allowed to close, that has an impact not only on me and my company … it hurts people and affects jobs. Title companies, financial institutions, Realtors, home inspectors, things that we need to do to transact property, were deemed an essential service.”

The business of selling homes has changed in the last month, but it still goes on.


“There’s lots of uncertainty,” Dickinson said. “But there’s lots to be positive about. We still definitely have sellers who need to sell. We have buyers who want to buy. And interest rates are super low, 2% to 3%. I’ve been doing this for 35 years plus and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. This is unprecedented in my career.”

House for sale sold sign
House for sale, sold. Image from Pixabay.

Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.
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