Selling Your Home in Uncertain Times

The arrival of the coronavirus, COVID-19, has changed virtually every aspect of life, including the momentum of real estate sales. Some home sellers are waiting, hoping that the situation improves as we find a new normal. Others have decided to put their homes on the market because of urgent reasons, such as a job transfer, financial difficulties, or an expanding family. Since we can’t hope to return to pre-pandemic real estate norms any time soon, sellers must adapt to get a “For Sale” in the yard and their property sold.

Although the current inventory is lower than normal, the demand for homes continues to be quite high throughout the country. A low inventory can definitely work to your advantage, but you and your real estate agent must figure out the best way to show your home safely and efficiently.

Nearly all home buyers shop online, but this method of marketing has never been more crucial. Virtual tours, including 3-D tours, make your property available for viewing 24/7. Your agent can conduct tours via Facetime on cell phones or tablets, through narrated videos that move viewers through the rooms, or using tools such as Facebook Live. Make sure your agent is willing to give your video the time it takes to be excellent and professional. This is not the time to depend on a few nice photos to entice buyers.

Your home must look its best for videos and for still photos featured in your online presentation. The majority of buyers want a home that is “move-in” ready. Pictures can show no flaws, so make sure your home is spotless with all personal items and clutter completely cleared away. Staging is imperative to make your house appealing; don’t skip this important step.

Be thoughtful and careful with pricing your home. Your agent can help you with a strategy so you don’t overprice your home. In an uncertain economy, buyers will be cautious. It is more likely for buyers to jump at a bargain now than to pay a premium or get into a bidding war.

Social distancing requirements and safe hygiene procedures are discouraging many sellers and agents from holding traditional open houses. In fact, they may be completely banned in your community. How agents are allowed to conduct actual showings may vary according to HOA requirements, city regulations, and personal comfort levels.

However, if you decide to allow potential buyers into your home, take every precaution to stay safe. Ask that all appointments be scheduled through your agent. Only one or two people should come for a viewing, but no children should come inside at all. Hand sanitizer, masks, disposable gloves and booties should be provided. Leave lights on to discourage visitors from flipping light switches. Leave all doors open and closet doors cracked a bit so no one needs to touch your door knobs. Ask accompanying agents to be the only person to open cupboards and drawers as their clients request and ask them to do it holding a disinfecting wipe. You may want to provide a document asking all visitors to sign in by confirming that they have no COVID-19 symptoms and that they have not been in recent contact with anyone who does. After each showing, disinfect all counter tops, door knobs, cupboard pulls, faucets, and light switches.

Note that people who want to make actual visits to your home are those who have real interest in it. Buyers are not touring dozens of houses in person as they would have before the coronavirus. If your home is on their short list, it is because they were impressed by your online presentation.

When you receive an offer, have your agent email it to you and review it together over the phone. Because you must sign original documents, have your agent leave the papers outside your door or in your mailbox. When you have signed, put them back outside for her to pick up. During this time of social distancing, closing companies are able to use software that allows them to conduct the closing remotely. Ask your agent to use a company that is willing to do this. If you do have to go in person, request a minimum number of people in the room. If you co-own the property with a spouse or partner, you might want to take turns going in to sign. Don’t be surprised if the closing period is 60 days or longer instead of the more standard 30 days. Title companies may be short staffed if they have chosen to furlough some of their staff. Many people are choosing to refinance now which increases the title companies’ work load. Home inspections may take longer and getting repairs complete might take longer, too.

The COVID-19 situation is evolving constantly and you must be flexible to get your home sold. You and your agent should be able to come up with creative strategies to find a buyer and complete this complex transaction.