Is the Zika virus too close for comfort?
The Zika virus has made its way to the United States and Texas has had its first death, a newborn near Houston in Harris county. The tragedy of children dying to this virus is hitting too close to home but so far the Zika virus has been unable to gain a foothold in the United States. No outbreak means a positive public perception that this disease is under control and that’s critical for growing real estate markets. Nonetheless, recent warnings by the CDC may be having an effect on housing markets in Miami, Florida, where the country’s first local mosquito borne infections are arising. The slow growing housing market in Flint, MI, is an all too real reminder of how a crisis and a scared public can destroy decades of hard work in just a few months.
The Zika virus originates from South America and there have been only a few cases of local infections in Florida. The Harris County infant was a travel related case meaning the mother contracted the virus outside of the US and then it passed to the womb. Getting infected from human contact is unlikely, it’s not like catching a cold. With the proper precautions; patients are only contagious through bodily fluids during the first week of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention closely monitor infected individuals across the country and identifies the vectors for new cases. The virus’s inability to transmit easily is good news for Texas, New York and Florida markets who have the largest populations of infected individuals.
Unfortunately, Florida’s struggle with the country’s first stateside Zika infections is starting to affect local businesses. The artistic Wynwood neighborhood near Miami relies heavily upon tourism and commercial rentals for its local economy but the recent CDC warning asking pregnant women and children to stay 500ft away from two local businesses may create fears where there are none. It is too soon to tell how the warning will influence public perception and the tourism industry, but already one outdoor restaurant and bar has closed its doors until further notice.
American’s aren’t Worried about the Zika Virus just yet.
A personal message from William Trombly a local Houston appraiser: “Currently there is now out of control infection of the Zika Virus in the Houston, TX area, there are 14 confirmed infected with the Zika Virus as of Wednesday August 8 2016. However all individuals who have contracted the virus have done so because of traveling to areas in South America, according to the City of Houston, they were not contracted here. I do not believe that this is an issue in the area and there is no reason that this will affect buyers perception of homes in the area at this time. Texans are self reliant and with all the benefits of a bustling economic opportunity, there really is no better place than Houston to be starting a business or a family. If you are a realtor or are working with a customer that has Zika Virus concerns; be thorough in your explanations, be informed of any important developments in your area, and prepare yourself for tough questions from customers and homeowners.”
Click HERE for Zika Virus updates from the city of Houston. For now, American’s are not taking the Zika virus seriously, according to polls, and for good reason. The CDC is closely monitoring the situation and the American lifestyles of closed windows and AC during the summer, along with its cold winters, goes a long way in mitigating Zika infections.
But what if someone asked you to visit Wynwood while a small neighborhood is under CDC advisory? The word ‘advisory’ gives me pause, there isn’t much to fear from the Zika virus but imagine how quickly public perception will change when CDC leaflets are handed out at local grocery stores and gas stations. How will you respond to the concerns of prospective homeowners or local businesses? Always be informed of any important developments in your area and prepare yourself for tough questions from customers and homeowners. Be honest and thorough in your explanations and give advice on how to prevent infection from the Zika virus.
How does the Zika Virus effect your local market? Leave a comment on how you are coping with concerns from customers if any.
Be Informed and Keep Customers in the Know
- Learn about the Zika virus and how it affects your local area.
- Sign up for Email alerts on the CDC webpage.
- Have pamphlets available. There are some available for print from the CDC and local government webpages.
- Be prepared for any circumstance. Home buyers from Flint were sidelined when lenders refused mortgages for homes without water filtration systems, proof of water potability etc. New situations will arise for each market if the Zika virus spreads.
- Remove standing water sources – Non-functioning pools, old tires, wheel barrels, miscellaneous debris, standing water, bird baths.
- Keep up with landscaping – Assure that properties are getting regular landscaping to remove unnecessary shade and areas that hold moisture. The Aedes species that transmits Zika bites during the day from shady hideaways.
- Prepare the home for residents – Keep the windows and doors in good repair with caulking, weather stripping and screens. Check that the Air Conditioning units are in good working order. Consider installing mosquito netting on porch areas to reassure residents and replace outdoor light bulbs with bug lights that won’t attract insects.