NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — House hunting looks a little different these days.

In the midst of a pandemic, potential buyers like Ricky Atwood are enjoying virtual tours.

“I don’t think the current climate is keeping people away, it’s causing them to be intentional,” Atwood said. “Picky might be the best word.”

Real estate is deemed essential under Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order.

But over the past few weeks, many realtors have been trading open houses for private showings.

Earlier this month, Dallas County went as far as requiring temperature checks for realtors before showings, as well as prohibiting open houses.

In Tarrant County, an order urged people to avoid in-person contact and instead conduct business using web-based technology.

However, when Atwood and his wife do visit homes, he said they separate from their realtor and stand six feet apart.

“My wife brings the hand sanitizer like crazy. I have a mask, she has a mask,” Atwood said.

Home listings in North Texas are down roughly 20% compared to this time last year, according to JP & Associates Realtors CEO JP Piccinini.

“What we’re seeing is the lack of inventory has [driven] prices to stay flat and no decrease like people were speculating,” Piccinini said.

Citing ShowingTime, Piccinini also said showings are down 38% in North Texas from this time last year.

But Piccinini is optimistic, especially as the governor’s stay-at-home order expires Thursday night.

He said buyers can expect to see more open houses, but with tweaks.

For example, the Collin County Association of Realtors is applying a “6/10” rule. The rule will allow them to conduct business as long as they stand six feet apart from people in spaces with fewer than 10 people.

“Wear masks, wear gloves… everyone has a different appetite for safety,” Piccinini said. “Make sure your agent knows your needs and concerns.”

The National Association of Realtors said in addition to following social distancing guidelines, realtors should open all windows and doors and ask visitors to remove their shoes or use shoe coverings during showings.

Despite the challenges, there are advantages to buying a home in this climate — mortgage rates for a 30-year loan fell to 3.23% this week, according to Freddie Mac.

Atwood said he’s excited to keep searching and viewing homes. He’s also trying to sell his own home in Little Elm at the same time.

But for now, he said he plans on steering clear of showings.

“We’ve only shown one stranger our house so far,” Atwood said. “My wife and I went to Sonic while they were touring the house.”

Newly pending sales, which are an early sign of future sales, are down 22% from a year ago in the DFW area as of the end of last week, according to Jeff Tucker, an economist for Zillow.

But Tucker noted that sales are up 12% from the prior week and page views on DFW listings were 39% higher than last year, as of the middle of April.

“So there are signs that buyers are coming back to the market,” Tucker said. “Social distancing behaviors are having an impact on the home buying process, but agents, buyers and sellers are adapting through the use of technology.”