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Coronavirus: Can 3-D video tours save the real estate spring market?

Earlier this month, Bill Patterson was rendered “a little surprised’’ upon seeing dozens of area open houses scheduled for the weekend, with more than a third of them restricted to Saturday for the first viewing — an approach frequently employed by agents to ensure the highest foot traffic.

Patterson, broker and owner of Craft Realty in Boston, Real Estate News said he wasn’t totally shocked to see the listings despite increasing restrictions on large public gatherings due to the coronavirus, because many real estate agents have been slow to adopt technology that facilitates virtual tours.

“They’re still following the old model — do the open house, get the energy,’’ Patterson said. “It’s a system that works, but when we’re trying to keep [our] distance, I’d like to see it change.’’

Patterson, an early adopter of 3-D virtual tour technology, may soon get his wish. On March 20, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh called on the real estate industry to stop holding open houses to market properties for rent or sale. Instead, landlords, realtors, and rental brokers should schedule individual showings and use photos and videos as much as possible.

“It’s about keeping that physical distance from each other and preventing the spread of the virus,’’ Walsh said.

Worcester issued similar guidelines two days before, calling for the cancellation or delay of all upcoming open houses in the city. The Greater Boston Association of Realtors also issued guidelines for its members to consider virtual showings.

Kurt Thompson, president of the Massachusetts Association Press Release Distribution Services In Real Estate of Realtors, said he anticipates more restrictions on open houses from other communities, as the virus continues to affect the historically busy spring real estate market. Thompson, a broker at Keller Williams Real Estate-North Central in Leominster, said he recently decided to stop doing open houses for now and will rely more on virtual tours, such as streaming via Facebook Live. He expects more realtors to rely on photographs, videos, and streams as a first showing.

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