Buying or Selling During A Pandemic
While it may seem that it is dragging on and on, the COVID-19 pandemic is temporarily touching every possible industry in one way or another. It is certainly affecting the real estate market which is at once uncertain, while remaining full of constants. These constants include people who are downsizing, as well as those who need more space – and they need it now. Doctors are moving to hospitals in new cities and need a house. Death and divorce are the unfortunate cause of moves year-round. There are sellers in strong seller’s markets who found their next home (pre-Covid) in order to get the largest obstacle over with, are under contract now and need to sell their existing home asap during this unforeseen pandemic. Investors are building their real estate portfolios under all circumstances. These are just a few examples of people who are buying and selling real estate right now and there are plenty more!
If you are in the market to buy or sell your home, this can be a frightening time. With calls for social distancing and many businesses temporarily closing their doors, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to real estate. If you are trying to buy or sell right now, here are some tips to help you make it through!
Instead of opting for an open house, ask your agent to host one virtually via a guided tour on Facebook Live. Facebook events, garage sale pages, contests, and advertising are effective ways to engage with home shoppers online. Virtual staging and 360 virtual tours are great options to highlight homes for sale.
If you are still allowing tours of your home or touring homes, make sure you are taking all sanitary precautions. Wear a mask and gloves at each home you visit. Sellers or their agents can set up a sanitizing station next to the front door offering hand sanitizer and shoe covers. Ask all buyers to sanitize their hands before touching anything in the home. Ask your agent to hang signs with instructions throughout the home to ensure visitors are reminded of the protocols in your home. It would be helpful to open cabinets and closets and room doors to minimize touching. After every showing, ensure you are sanitizing all surfaces a potential buyer may have come into contact with, such as door knobs and countertops. If you are touring a home, make sure you maintain social distancing practices with the agent and avoid touching anything you do not need to.
Instead of having an open house, consider having only scheduled showings for your home. Create videos walking through your home (or ask your agent to create one) showing how you or your family use the space. Explain things that you anticipate buyers may have questions about. Talk about what type of flooring you have, which items convey with the house, and the unique features you want to ensure do not go unnoticed. Make sure these videos go out to everyone who scheduled viewings or online tours.
Stay Calm, Stay Safe, Be Flexible
While there are still many options to buy and sell right now, stay calm and remain flexible. The majority of home shoppers looking right now are serious and well-qualified buyers. Uncommitted buyers have dropped off. Buyers who are sticking around have strong motivations to move and your place might be an attractive option. Inventory is lower than this time last year, so housing prices have remained stable and even increased significantly in some markets such as in Washington, DC. There is less competition amongst sellers nationwide. If you are selling, keep an open mind and have a plan in place to temporarily take the home off the market, lower the price enough to attract a new set of shoppers, or invest in staging and/or upgrades to improve your home if traffic is slow after 2-3 weeks on the market.
For buyers, take heart in knowing fewer homes will sell with multiple offers and this may offer you some leverage. Lending institutions have tightened lending standards and upped the credit criteria resulting in fewer qualified buyers. This temporary softening of the market will not last and gives strongly qualified buyers a great opportunity to strike while interest rates are low.
On the same token, if you’re worried about layoffs, you should buy a home well under budget allowing for cash reserves and a strong rainy day fund. Don’t feel bad if after crunching the numbers, considering for the ‘what-ifs’, and speaking with a financial advisor and lender, you decide that now is not the right time to buy. Stay in touch with your real estate agent, continue saving and you’ll be ready when things get back to some semblance of normalcy.
If you are a seller living in your home with a compromised immune system or other risk factors, waiting this out is not a bad option. Spend this time de-cluttering, making repairs, painting, landscaping, and other improvements so that you’re all set when the time is right.
If you are on the seller side and want to sell now, great photography and real or virtual staging are more important than ever. Hire an agent who uses creative marketing techniques for greater reach. Make sure your listing shines and stands out to ensure your listing rises to the top online and will not be overlooked during this unprecedented time in history.