Spring typically means an uptick in the housing market, but the coronavirus pandemic that is continuing to spread across the United States has thrown the industry a curveball. According to data from National Association of Realtors® (NAR), almost a third of members saw a decline in the number of homes on the market in March. And as more and more states implemented stay-at-home orders and other restrictions, showings and open houses saw a sharp decline, as well.
The full impact the coronavirus will have on the U.S. housing market has yet to be seen. But as the world continues to navigate the outbreak, real estate professionals, home sellers and homebuyers are adapting to the current environment.
8 tips for showing a home during the coronavirus outbreak
From embracing technology to finding creative alternatives to traditional practices, you can implement multiple new strategies to navigate the selling process.
Know your state and local laws
One of the most important things you can do is make sure you adhere to guidelines in place for your area. In states where shelter-in-place mandates exist, real estate may be considered an essential service. Even so, familiarize yourself with what you can and can’t do.
When local, state and federal laws differ, err on the side of caution and follow whichever is the most restrictive. Naturally, make sure you stay informed of the rules in this continually changing environment.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Marie Santiago, a Connecticut-based realtor, says open and frequent communication is critical right now. She checks in daily with clients, as new developments could inspire a change of direction. Additionally, with potential delays at every step of the buying and selling processes — from the mortgage approval to title searches to securing homeowners insurance — Santiago maintains frequent contact with lenders, attorneys and other players.
Move home tours, showings and open houses online
The coronavirus has forced many industries to rethink how to conduct their day-to-day business — and the real estate industry is no different. Sellers, buyers and real estate agents are taking much of the process online.
3D tours. While 3D, or virtual, tours are not new, they are more important now than ever. With a 3D video tour, prospective buyers can view a property on demand. If sellers don’t already have a professional video in place and don’t want a photographer coming to their home, Santiago says she sets up a Zoom call with the seller and records them walking around the property. Alternatively, services such as EyeSpy360 and Cupix have DIY 3D Tour options.
- Virtual Open Houses. Many sellers and agents are turning to Skype, Facebook or other streaming services to conduct live, real-time open houses.
- Virtual showings. As with open houses, buyers and real estate agents can conduct online showings online by using streaming services. Additionally, resources such as FloorPlanOnline help sellers put together on-demand virtual showings.
While it may not be as complete as an in-person view of the house, a silver lining for sellers is that it cuts down on the chances of someone being injured or breaking something during a showing, along with other events that can trigger a home insurance claim.
Use web conferencing tools for realtor/client meetings
Conduct any meeting you would typically have face-to-face online. With conferencing services such as Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex or Google Hangouts Meet, sellers and real estate agents can virtually discuss the homebuying process and go over contracts. DocuSign or other cloud-based services can help when signatures are needed. And if documents need to be notarized, check with your state. Many allow remote notarization in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Amend or build additional time into your contracts
Sellers should keep in mind that delays can occur at multiple stages in the selling process right now. To account for that, consider building in extra time to the projected closing date. For homes already under contract, consider including an addendum to extend the buyer’s due diligence period or to address other concerns and issues related to the outbreak.
Consider waiting to sell
Many buyers have chosen to delay their home search in light of the pandemic. In addition to prioritizing safety, they may be counting on a drop in home prices, which means more affordable financing and cheaper home insurance costs for them. But according to Gay Cororaton, director of housing and commercial research for NAR, prices appear to be holding up. While the housing market has seen a decline in the number of transactions, Cororaton expects it to rebound as safety measures and restrictions loosen.
Sellers who delay putting their homes on the market can leverage the time to their advantage. “Spruce up your place and improve your place’s curb appeal,” she advised. “Plan for any remodeling you may need to do to get a better price on your home once you put it on the market.”
Limit in-person showings to prequalified buyers
If in-person showings are permitted in your area, consider only showing to prequalified buyers. If choosing to do so, be sure to ask for the buyer’s prequalification or preapproval letter to avoid violating fair housing laws. Keep in mind, though, that some buyers may be unable to obtain a prequalification letter because of the delays that mortgage companies and banks currently face.
Take safety precautions if moving forward with showings
In-person showings are discouraged, even in areas in which real estate is considered an “essential service.” But, if you choose to move forward, be sure to prioritize the safety of all participants, including yours. Follow state and local guidelines as well as safety precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Maintain at least a six-foot distance between attendees
Require attendees to wash hands or use hand sanitizer upon entry to the property
Remove shoes or provide booties
Ask all parties to wear face coverings
Additionally, agents may ask buyers to complete a COVID-19 screening questionnaire before viewing a property.