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5 Buyer and Seller Realities During COVID-19

Yes, homes are still being bought and sold during this challenging time.

Home has never meant so much to us in so many different ways. Home is now where we live, work, eat, sleep, exercise, relax, and play.
 
Living rooms have become classrooms, exercise studios, and virtual meeting rooms. Kitchens have become restaurants serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day along with way too many snacks in between. Some bedrooms have become hospital quarantine rooms where we care for the sick while trying not to get sick ourselves.
 
Home is where we stay to keep safe and keep our families and our communities safe. Staying in our homes is literally saving people’s lives; our homes have become life-saving devices. Our homes have become everything to us.
 
And yet for those of us in real estate, we also are trying to help people who need to buy and sell. So here we are in a new normal. Hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, rubber gloves, masks, social distancing, hunkering down at home, and yet, carefully navigating how to best assist our clients.
 
We are in uncharted waters, not just the buyers and sellers but for all of us involved in the entire real estate process end-to-end. This means agents, lenders, title and escrow companies, attorney’s offices, inspectors, movers, and everyone else in between.

Here are 5 thoughts for all of us to consider:

1. Buying and Selling a Property Has Changed.
 
The showing and buying process is now different. While nearly every real estate company is putting preventative procedures in place, please know that showings involve the risk of potential exposure to multiple other parties, as well as to the properties you’re seeing and those who live there.
 
Not every seller or occupant may be comfortable with strangers going into their home. Your exposure becomes their exposure. Buyers and agents are expected to wear masks and gloves and potentially wear booties or remove shoes. In California, buyers and their agents are now expected to sign a form prior to entering a property listed for sale.
 
Buyers may also be asked to keep the viewing time to a minimum, 15-20 minutes versus the sometimes hour spent sitting on the couch or standing around the kitchen island envisioning their lives in the home. They will also be asked to review the home online, go through all photos and a virtual/3D tour and demonstrate the financial ability to buy.
 
For sellers, patience will be a huge virtue. We’re early on into the process of how to safely show the property. We’re in uncharted waters when it comes to knowing what the pace of showing activity will be. That activity (or lack thereof) will be different for every seller/property, depending on the price range, area, and the level of risk where the property is located. Just because there haven’t been many in-person showings, doesn’t mean the house isn’t getting showings.
 
With everyone spending time at home — most likely in front of a computer — anyone who’s in the market to buy a home will be searching online. We will be producing virtual 3-D tours and videos of our sellers’ properties to ensure that potential buyers experience the home.
 
2. The Transaction will be Socially Distanced.
 
- Agents will require buyers to take their own car to meet at properties.
 
- Listing and buyer agents, based on the guidelines put out by The National Association of Realtors (NAR), may ask buyers and sellers about travel history and potential exposure to the coronavirus as well as ask clients, or anyone they’ve been with if they are sick or have a fever.
 
- Now is the time to be transparent and not take offense when being asked these questions by anyone involved in setting up a showing appointment or inspection. Under the current circumstances, a seller has the right to understand the scenario of potential visitors into their home.
 
- Open house events including public open houses and broker open houses are prohibited. Agents, like us, are promoting and marketing our listings and buyers’ needs during online zoom broker meetings. - As agents, we are not in the position to let just somebody, anybody, or everybody in a home right now. We have to be responsible and follow the guidelines set forth by the State of California.
 
- For showings, we will be requiring buyers and buyers’ agents and our sellers to sign the Coronavirus Property Entry Advisory and Declaration form. We will be requiring that only the agent and two additional principals (buyers) enter the house and all that enter must practice social distancing, wear booties, gloves and face masks. We will ask that you do not exit the home and stand and talk. Please return to your vehicles and do your follow-up conversation via phone in your respective vehicles.
 
- Phone and video conferencing will be used with increased frequency and paperwork will be done almost 100 percent online utilizing DocuSign for signatures.
 
- We ask that buyers and sellers be considerate of what we are doing as we take the necessary precautions to keep ourselves, our families, our clients, and our affiliates safe.

3. Now is Not the Time to Try to Take Advantage.
 
Sellers might be tempted to price their property based on what they want to make, rather than basing their price on current data. A property not priced based on data will stay longer on the market and most likely will sell for a lower price than what the market data was indicated at the time they listed the property. A fair market-priced home will attract serious offers.
 
Buyers might be tempted to throw out low-ball offers at sellers to see what will stick. Buyers might feel as if they are entitled to a “deal” during these unusual circumstances. While sellers will certainly negotiate, trying to rub salt in the wound of what’s already a trying time will not be appreciated, celebrated, or bring a positive outcome for buyers. Don’t approach an offer with the intention of playing to a seller’s vulnerabilities or an overblown sense of despair in the market. Everyone is in uncharted territory, and this is an uncertain time on many levels. No one is exempt. Buyers should consider making a fair and sound offer. It may be honest and sincere pricing and negotiations will open the door to opportunity.
 
4. Delays Will Happen.
 
Right now, life isn’t going according to anyone’s plan. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, know that there may be delays with all facets of the transaction process as human interaction is limited and we are having to adapt daily. Inspections, appraisals, loan processing, and underwriting, as well as issuing the clear to close and getting the package from the lender to the title company, will be challenging during this time.
 
Inspectors whose work can be potentially hazardous in the best of times have to take special precautions now like never before. Their job entails physically touching and testing numerous components in a home, many of which could be germ-infested. Appraisers also face a similar risk by having to physically enter numerous properties to do their job.
 
The closing date is just that — a date. And while everyone can do their best to make that date, in this situation, we’re dealing with circumstances beyond anyone’s control.
 
Buyers and sellers need to be flexible and understanding with each other regarding obstacles out of their control during this time. The California Association of Realtors has developed addendums for transactions to address delays due to COVID-19.

5. Adjusting Expectations
 
No one has all the answers — and that includes real estate agents. While people are doing their best to obtain information and updates from their company’s real estate leadership, local, state, and national Realtor associations, along with national, state, and local officials, this situation is in flux. What happens today might be drastically different tomorrow.
 
Know that we are doing everything we can to stay abreast of the changes and adaptions we will all need to follow. Our homes have never been more important to us than right now. They are a place of solace, respite, work, and the ultimate shelter from the storm — no matter what kind of storm that is.
 
At the end of the day, our home is the one sacred place where we can work through our deepest fears and challenges, rejoice in the happiest of times, and simply relax and be with our family. If you are a seller serious about selling, stay the course. For buyers, with interest rates at an all-time low, it is a great time to take advantage of favorable conditions to leverage your buying power. 
         

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