Your personal health and financial interests must remain your chief concerns if you are thinking about buying or selling a home now. And with some health experts stating that the pandemic may last well into 2021 (or longer) – it may prove wise to keep weighing all your options. Fortunately, there are a few new approaches to buying and selling homes due to the pandemic that may prove beneficial to you, along with some standard practices.
While some homeowners may always prefer to sell their property on their own, hiring a highly qualified agent may come in quite handy when you are trying to minimize various health risks.
Before reviewing current suggestions for buyers and sellers trying to transfer property during the pandemic, here is a brief look at new data indicating a few new trends in the residential real estate market.
Facts, statistics, and new perspectives & approaches to buying and selling homes
- Large numbers of people are still going to buy and sell – regardless of the pandemic. In fact, back during late May, 400 or more house sales were closing every day in Austin, Texas.
- Many Americans living in densely populated cities are recognizing new dangers. Few people now want to live in a high-rise condo or apartment building that can force them to spend too much time in elevators with others who may have COVID-19.
The suburbs and single-family homes are big draws now. During the early days of the pandemic, one NYC website recorded a 250% hike in inquiries about leaving that city and moving to nearby bedroom communities.
- Now that “tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs” due to the pandemic recession, lenders are tightening up their loan practices. They are deeply afraid of lending money to new homebuyers who may soon lose their jobs. If you cannot easily afford to buy right now and are not responding to a major crisis, it might be best to stay put where you are currently living.
- Reduced inventory in many cities — due to so many sellers taking their houses off the market — is helping to keep prices stable. However, since economic indicators can still change suddenly, speak regularly with a real estate agent in the city where you hope to move – staying fully abreast of all pertinent market factors.
- Be sure any contract you sign during this pandemic clearly allows for delays related to COVID-19. This has become common practice since a fully-qualified buyer might suddenly lose his/her job – or one of the key parties could develop a dire case of COVID-19 and be hospitalized. Unexpected travel delays and other pandemic-related issues can arise — so easy exits must be possible so there will not be a need for any litigation.
Special tips for sellers related to the unique threats posed by COVID-19
- Limit your personal exposure to potential buyers by using live video-chat and virtual tours. These are more crucial than ever since you want as few people as possible walking through your home, whether you have already moved out or not.
- Do not schedule any open houses or overlapping visits. You need time to thoroughly clean the place between visits. Be prepared to ask potential buyers to touch as few surfaces as possible while in the house. Have hand sanitizer and wipes available inside the front door. Also, ask people to not bring their children since it is hard to restrain them from touching a wide variety of surfaces.
- Consider making “loan preapproval information” a prerequisite to showing your home to someone. Although buyers do not usually warm to this, it has become much more common during the pandemic. This practice can lower the health risk for you or the agent showing your home.
- Be proactive if you can and make all necessary repairs. Sellers must always be fully honest about any special problems that remain in homes they have put on the market.
- Always try to stage your home. Unless you are in dire financial straits, the rewards can be quite beneficial. One realtor’s association has said that staging a home can sometimes “quadruple” the offers you will receive. Buyers want and need to see themselves living comfortably in the house – and staging helps provide them with that feeling. If necessary, consider putting many of your own possessions in storage to help declutter the house.
- Stress cleanliness and safety before and during every home tour. Have your agent check in with the prospective buyers the day before their visit is scheduled to be sure they have not just tested positive for COVID-19. Tell all who wish to see the home that they must arrive with a mask and put it on prior to entering the property.
Seriously consider leaving many lights on and doors open – to discourage your guests from touching anything. It may also prove useful to designate one bathroom for all visitors – so it will be the only one that will have to be cleaned once they leave.
Special tips for home buyers during COVID-19
- If you believe there’s significant competition for a house, offer as much as you can afford for the purchase price – and offer to close as soon as possible. However, it is never a good idea to skip a home inspection – so, be sure to still go through with that. Also, do your homework and find out what the owner paid for the house (on your own or through your agent) – and ask if any major renovations have been made to help you better evaluate the current asking price.
- Decide if you would prefer to buy a new home after only seeing it via a virtual tour. This is becoming a bit more common today. However, if you decide to do this, be sure your contract provides for you to opt out if you have second thoughts after visiting the home. Of course, it is still probably best to go look through the house in person before buying.
- If the owners are still living in the house, ask if anyone has tested positive for COVID-19 this year. An honest seller (or her agent) should be willing to disclose this information. If someone has tested positive – you can then request that a thorough, professional cleaning of the premises be paid for by the seller (after all furniture and other goods have been moved out). Waiting an added two-weeks before moving in should keep you and your family safe from pandemic germs.
- Ask if the seller is offering minimal human contact during the closing stage. Some sellers represented by agents with large companies are now offering title signings outdoors on a drive-through basis.
Please feel free to contact any of our Murray Lobb attorneys so we can draft or interpret any contracts for you involved with buying or selling a home. We are also available to draft any other legal documents you may need – or provide our legal advice about various estate planning matters or general business transactions.