COVID-19 has certainly had an impact on real estate, but not in the way that many may have expected. In most parts of the country, it didn’t halt home sales; it didn’t have a significant negative impact on home values.
However, it has changed the way that a lot of home buyers and sellers — and REALTORS® — view the home selling process, from everything from the listing of a home to touring homes for sale, from the inspection process to the closing table.
Here are some ways that the global pandemic has changed the home showing process and some protocols you might expect to see if you are in the market to buy a home in the near future.
- Buyers may be expected to really know what they’re looking for. Your REALTOR® should be having even more detailed conversations with you now, to make sure that your search is really honing in on the features and locations that are most important to you, in order to make sure you’re truly seeing the homes that best fit your needs. Seeing fewer homes (the ones that you can really see yourself possibly making an offer on) means less possibility of exposure for everyone.
- Sellers and their REALTORS® may be asking that you take their virtual tour first. Many sellers now prefer that buyers tour their home virtually before setting up an in-person showing. This may be a video tour or a 360-tour of the property that is posted on the MSL listing or on another property website, or it may mean that the seller or listing agent agrees to FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype with the buyer and the buyer’s agent to see if the buyer still likes the home enough to come and see it in person.
- Buyers (and their REALTOR®) may need to fill out a health questionnaire prior to having appointment requests approved. Don’t be surprised if the listing appointment process, especially for occupied homes, requires that the buyers and their REALTOR® fill out a health questionnaire, which may ask questions such as:
— Do you have or have you had a fever within the last week?
— Have you had any trouble breathing, any respiratory issues, any loss of smell or taste, or any other similar symptoms?
— Have you tested positive for COVID-19?
— Have you been exposed to anyone that has tested positive to COVID-19?
— Have you traveled outside of the country within the last 14 days?
— Have you been on an airplane or stayed in a hotel in the last 14 days?
- Any parties not involved in the purchase decision making may be asked not to attend the showings in person. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for buyers to bring along a friend or family members, in order to get their opinions on the homes being toured. It’s becoming more and more common for sellers and their agents to ask that any parties that are not directly involved in the purchase decision — parents, family members, children, friends, etc. — simply stay home. If you, as the buyer, want to get the opinion of someone who will not be on the loan or is not a spouse or significant other, we can always arrange to have them attend the showing with us virtually.
- Sellers may require masks, gloves, shoe coverings, and more. Some sellers may require that anyone entering their home wear a mask or other face covering and gloves. Others may provide shoe coverings at the door or ask that buyers remove shoes outside. Still others may take it further and stipulate that they will leave all closet and cabinet doors open and that no one entering the home touch any doorknobs or handles.
Beyond the initial home tour, things may also be different during the contract process:
- The home inspection process may be different. Sellers may ask that only the home inspector attend the home inspection, in order to keep the number of people and the possibility of contamination of the home to a minimum. Additionally, some home inspectors may have this requirement, even on vacant homes; they may ask that buyers and agents refrain from attending the home inspection and instead offer to hold a video call at the end of the home inspection to identify any major defects that need particular attention.
- The negotiation of repairs may be different. Sellers may be reluctant to have a bunch of contractors, repair technicians, and service providers traipsing through their homes, which may mean they are more likely to negotiate money off the price or toward your closing costs in lieu of actual repairs. This may actually be in everyone’s best interests; click here to read why I think this is the case.
- The appraisal process may be different. In many circumstances, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and also FHA, VA, and USDA are all allowing for desktop appraisals or exterior-only inspections of properties for appraisals. This keeps the appraiser from having to enter the home, protecting both the appraiser and the home’s occupants.
- The closing process may be different. In Georgia, the closing process is typically the buyers, the sellers, their REALTORS®, sometimes the lender, and the closing attorney sitting around the closing table in the same room, at the same time (this process is different in every state). Many closing attorneys are now allowing (or in some cases, requiring) the buyers and sellers to sign separately, at different times. Some are asking that the REALTORS® or any other parties who are not signing closing documents not attend the closing in person (but virtual attendance is, of course, permitted). Some attorneys are also performing curbside closings or putting into place other special protocols for buyers or sellers who may be “high-risk” for COVID-19 and need additional safety procedures in place in order to close in a safe environment (if you are high-risk and you feel you need to take some extra precautions, please call us to discuss prior to your closing so that we can try to make special arrangements!). Even once closing attorneys’ offices open back up and allow group closings to occur again, if you are uncomfortable sitting in a room with all of the above parties present, you can still request that you be allowed to have a solo closing; just ask your REALTOR® to reach out to the closing attorney to make arrangements.
If you’re thinking of buying a home right now and you have questions about how COVID-19 might affect your home search, call us today at 404-994-2181 or email Maura(at)BuySellLiveAtlanta.com — we would love to talk with you and help you find your new home!