Long queues, "excessive sanitiser" and hands off the cupboards - home buyers are finding the open home process a new experience under alert level 2.
A video taken in Trafalgar St, Onehunga yesterday shows a queue of people snaking down the road waiting to enter an open home, as real estate agents work to follow the level 2 rules.
Wellington woman Katie Smith was visiting open homes in Porirua this morning, and said she and her partner were not allowed to touch anything in the house.
If they wanted to open cupboards or test water pressure, they had to ask the real estate agent to do it for them, she said.
"The precautions each open home had in place . . . were a register, which we could have preregistered over email if the agent had our details, only 10 people in the house at a time, excessive hand sanitiser, and we weren't allowed to touch things.
"We were told if we wanted to look in cupboards and whatnot, she would do it for us."
This did not always work in practice as the agent was dealing with other prospective buyers and was not always available to open things for them.
Smith said others were "respectful" of space, and there was a "shared sense of amusement" as people tried to keep their distance from one another.
"We did feel a little rushed but not that much, and we did manage to beat queues, but we were always early. Each time we left there were queues of up to 20 people outside."
Owen Vaughan, editor of NZME-owned property listings site OneRoof, said: "We knew from increased searches on OneRoof that this weekend was going to be a busy one for the housing market in Auckland but the lines outside some open homes go to show there was a lot of pent-up demand for property.
"We're likely to see increased activity over the next month as buyers interrupted by the lockdown seek to secure a home. What will be critical for the housing market is what happens in the months after, once that holdover activity is no longer there."
Chairman of the NZ Realtors Network Mark Coffey said the agents he'd spoken to today felt there was a similar number of home buyers at the open homes as there were pre-lockdown.
But he said people seemed more inclined to make offers.
"The buyers that have been looking at open homes weren't just out for a Sunday drive, they were certainly out making some buying decisions," he said.
There were less houses available for open homes at the moment, with vendors seemingly reluctant to open their houses up to the public yet.
Coffey said the next few weeks would be a better indicator of what the post-lockdown housing market would look like.
"There won't be a hard and fast rule where you can say 'hey, the market's changed by X percent'."
One of the main challenges real estate agents are facing is uncertainty from both buyers and sellers of what to expect now, he said.
Real Estate Institute of NZ chief executive Bindi Norwell said the first weekend of open homes at level 2 had been "quite busy", with agents saying there were good levels of attendance and that people were starting to feel more confident about life returning to normal.
"People are still acutely aware of the importance of appropriate physical distancing requirements and most have been pretty good about contact tracing requirements. We expect activity to continue to pick up over the coming weeks barring any change in the alert levels," she said.
"Overall, we're hearing that most people are quite confident about purchasing property at the moment. There are good levels of interest across the board from first time buyers, people looking at trade up and investors, which is positive to hear.
"It will be interesting to see what May's sales volume figures tell us about how much things have returned to normal or how far away we still are from a regular May month."