Blog: COVID-19 Creates New Normal for Detroit’s Construction, Real Estate Worlds

After a nearly two-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate and construction in Michigan got back to business in early May. The past several weeks have been busy and quite eye-opening, revealing the new realities that these industries face in the short-term and long-term.
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Connaé Pisani
Connaé Pisani // Courtesy photo

After a nearly two-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate and construction in Michigan got back to business in early May. The past several weeks have been busy and quite eye-opening, revealing the new realities that these industries face in the short-term and long-term.

These key industries are essential to continuing the successful economic standing of the city of Detroit and the region.

As an entrepreneur working in these fields in Detroit, I’m glad that the governor allowed us to get up and running. But the past month has also shown that it’s not as easy as flipping a switch.

The road back has already presented obstacles, as well as opportunities for success. Here is a look at these new realities.

Protecting employees
Whether planning logistics for a building site or meeting with property buyers and sellers, the main thought on real estate and construction business owners’ minds since May has been the balance of protecting employee health and safety while maintaining their livelihood.

To get there, these industries had to rebuild the workflow to meet this “new normal.” Anyone can be a carrier of COVID-19, even if they’re asymptomatic, so providing masks and gloves for staff has been and will continue to be essential. For some businesses, there has been a struggle to find the PPE needed, since it remains in high demand from everyone looking to protect themselves from the virus.

In-person meetings have remained limited and been moved when possible to the Zoom calls and conference calls we’ve all now mastered. Social distancing has also been maintained, and should become a long-term part of standard protocol.

Construction
The construction industry faced unique challenges upon reopening, including:

  • Extremely long lines for materials at big box stores. Smart builders stayed ahead of this by ordering in advance when possible, and showing up early.
  • Store occupancy limits also made these wait times even longer.
  • Construction prices (time and materials) have continued to rise.
  • Large projects have significantly decreased due to financial turmoil leaving less capital available for investment.

Real Estate
Agents, appraisers, brokers, inspectors, surveyors, and registers of deeds all were allowed to return to work on May 7. Returning to the field greatly helped those who had been forced to rely strictly on online tools during the shutdown.

However, the experience of buying and selling property is far from normal. Among major changes affecting the industry are:

  • Open houses are not yet allowed, and even if they were, many people are still skittish about being around others for fear of COVID-19.
  • Some people may be hesitant to buy or sell until they see how COVID-19 impacts the market.
  • Banks may change their processes and qualifications for mortgages.

Prepare for the next time
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared for the worst.

While the construction side of things can’t do much in the event of another shutdown, those in real estate can use this summer to build up their staff’s ability to work remotely in an effective manner, if they haven’t done so already. This way, systems will be in place and ready to use if another surge of COVID-19 appears in the fall or beyond.

For everyone back in the field, a “new normal” has been established over the past month. Obstacles will continue to make the industry’s future a bumpy one, but with proper planning and leadership, the city of Detroit will work its way back to the boom times for real estate and construction that preceded COVID-19.

Connaé Pisani is founder and CEO of National Real Estate Management Group, a real estate investment, construction, and property management firm that manages properties throughout the city of Detroit and beyond. She can be reached at info@nremg.com.

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