GROVE - The COVID-19 pandemic which has ravaged every corner of the U.S.’s health system and economy.

The pandemic has delivered a one-two punch to Northeast Oklahoma beginning with the record high and long-lasting Grand Lake levels of 2019, which essentially ruined the area’s tourist season.

In 2020, as lake levels looked good showing a promise of a good summer season, the coronavirus forces the shutdown of almost all businesses in the area.

The one-two punch.

But not all is lost and not all is bad, with some economic sectors looking pretty good, like real estate for example.

Though the market is “down a little over last year,” according to the local RE/MAX office owner, Chuck Perry, there are some bright spots.

“Actually, even though the market is down a little, we are ahead of last year by around 6-7 percent,” said Perry.

Realtors have modified some business practices to meet CDC guidelines.

Real estate selling is naturally a person to person business and meeting social distancing guidelines necessitated some creativity.

For instance, they no longer have customers ride with them, but take separate cars, which makes it more challenging to speak to people new to the market about the flavor and strengths of the area.

When looking at potential homes to purchase, the prospective buyers are asked to let their agent be the only one touching things and Perry said they wipe down as they go.

Additionally, masks are worn, foot protection (booties) are worn by all and they use a lot of Lysol wipes throughout the day.

When it comes to staff, most meetings are now virtual on Zoom and Zoom is being utilized more with customers, too.

Some customers are so comfortable using online services that they have used those services to choose and look through a property.

The use of 360’ video “visits” and drones can add perspective about the home and the surrounding neighborhood.

Some customers have even made an offer and purchased a home just based on what they’ve seen online through a virtual tour.

Around 80 percent of closings have been via email and electronic signatures and Perry believes that a majority of closings will continue that way, even after the pandemic is gone.

Perry commented on how helpful corporate RE/MAX has been in providing answers to questions, offering daily webinars with personal training on how to protect staff and customers.

As the economy opens back up, Perry is excited to see how the remainder of the year will finish.

As mentioned, his office is up over the same period last year and they have already sold two lake properties, each in the $1.3 million range which is very strong start for the year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

He feels there is a real pent up demand to list their homes, especially as “people are laying low, keeping people from going in and out of their homes” due to the coronavirus.

Because of that, inventory of homes for sale are low throughout all price ranges in the area.

Buyers continue to hunker down as they shelter in place, but as the weather gets nicer, they are getting antsy to get out to see what the market has available.

Add the very low interest rates, which helps to lower monthly payment and allows an increase in the price of the home they can buy.

Lake front sales traditionally stay strong and are staying true to form as this year progresses.

Even though interest rates are very low, Perry says his two largest sales this year (over a million dollars each) have been cash deals for lake properties, not mortgaged.

It is evident that as Oklahoma re-awakens, and Grove, Jay and Delaware County get rocking again, 2020 could end up being a good year, despite the one-two punch Mother Nature tried to deliver.

The hope is that as businesses open up soon, restaurants begin seating people again, residents come out and employees get back to work, the economy will pick up and get back to buzzing.