Global real estate leaders share COVID-19 challenges with ORRA

Published Friday, May 1, 2020

The Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association on April 30, 2020 hosted a Zoom meeting that attracted more than 300 participants eager to learn about the impact of COVID-19 on real estate markets around the world.

The 2020 ORRA International Summit, which was presented by the Global Real Estate Council of Orlando, featured real estate leaders from 10 countries across five continents. During the online global summit, the speakers revealed the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as their outlooks for the future in their respective countries.

The panel of leaders represented: Brazil, Canada, China, Dubai, Greece, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Serbia, South Africa, and Spain.

“In Orlando, we are hyper-aware of the global economy’s impact on our region. It’s critical to know how our partners in other countries are handling the COVID-19 outbreak in order to anticipate changes of our own,” said ORRA CEO Cliff Long, who moderated the event along with 2020 Global Real Estate Council of Orlando Chairman Cleberto Copetti.

Nearly all countries represented on the panel expressed that lockdown orders presented one of the largest obstacles for real estate brokers. In countries like South Africa, Serbia, and Greece, the government did not deem real estate an essential business.

Christo Weilbach, Institute of Real Estate Agents of South Africa, noted that transactions are at a standstill and some financing could fall through, as buyers’ financial situations change. Weilnach stated, “Real estate is really in a pickle in South Africa. It’s going to be really difficult for real estate to recover from this.”

While some countries saw increases in home searches during the height of the lockdown, it is unclear whether there is genuine interest or if it is an escape for people who are stuck inside. Several panelists acknowledged that COVID-19 is a medical crisis, rather than a real estate crisis.

“This crisis does not reduce the need for housing,” explained Heitor Kuser, Kuser Participações S/A, who represented Brazil in the summit.

While the long-term impacts of COVID-19 remain to be seen, many panelists were optimistic about the future. While transactions are delayed in Jamaica, the demand remains high for development properties. In Serbia, where most housing transactions are cash, REALTORS® expect a rebound in the second half of the year. In China, daily sales have spiked since the return to business at the end of February.

All panelists agree it will not be business as usual, from providing hand sanitizer to masks and gloves, the industry is already adapting to ensure the long-term safety of real estate professionals and customers. Real estate representatives from around the world expressed the need to embrace technology in order to hold virtual showings through video software and electronic transactions. While tactics are shifting, the job remains the same.

“Now is the time to be out there helping the people who made us the confident, successful REALTORS® we are now,” said Laura Leyser of the Canadian Real Estate Association.

More than 300 real estate professionals and investors attended the online summit.