Buying and selling a house during a pandemic.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
To say that you need to be prepared when entering the real estate market is an understatement, but when you’re buying and selling a home during COVID, there are a few extra factors you might want to consider.
What are your priorities, both long- and short-term?
Chances are that your lifestyle changed in 2020, spending more time at home, working from home, cooking at home, going for more walks around the neighborhood. Even if your day-to-day is back to normal, you might have discovered new hobbies or better ways of doing things. Consider your new priorities when choosing your next home. Here are some of the most common home features people added to their wish lists in 2020:
- More outdoor space: Valuable for warding off cabin fever during times of quarantine and finding more pleasure in nature at home
- Traditional or closed floorplan: More important when working from home, e-learning and quarantining requires more privacy, or you just crave more personal space during no-travel orders
- Dedicated home office: Important for improving focus and productivity as well as privacy and confidentiality
- Home gym: Because home workouts, and meditation or yoga spaces, have become a bigger part of people’s routines
- Mother-in-law suite: Particularly important as multigenerational homes become more common and in the event that someone needs to be quarantined from the rest of the family
- Updated HVAC systems, air purifiers and sanitary materials: Especially appealing if you want easy-to-clean surfaces and ways to limit germs in your home
What does “location, location, location” mean now?
Whereas commute time was a major consideration when looking at houses prior to the pandemic, location has a different significance if you’re now working from home. If you aren’t worried about drive time to the office, you can now give higher priority to the neighborhood or schools you want for your kids, the climate you’ve always dreamed of or the proximity to your favorite restaurants. Some homebuyers have shifted their attention to the suburbs, where population density is lower and cost of living is more affordable.
How will COVID-19 affect the financials of buying a house?
Many people are anxious about what kind of down payment they should make, especially if their employment situation is a bit tenuous during the pandemic. The same can be said about future mortgage payments. The best answer here is to contact a financial expert so you can get the personalized advice you need.
This is also an interesting time to decide if you want to take on a fixer-upper. It’s often a way to save money on the home sale itself, and if you have the time or developed some new DIY skills in recent months, this could be the perfect opportunity to put your personal stamp on a new home.
What will you do if you need gap housing?
There might be a gap between when you move out of your current home and into the new one. Where will you stay during that time? The friends and family you would have counted on pre-pandemic might not be able to or comfortable with hosting you now. Figure out what short-term living situation works for you and plan accordingly, whether that means lining up a generous friend, budgeting for an extended hotel stay or putting your things in self-storage.
Is it a good idea to do a virtual showing?
Some realtors and homeowners began doing virtual showings only this year to limit exposure to the virus. While some buyers have shied away from a home they can’t see in person, others have found it to be beneficial. Emma Banks of Apartment Therapy found that she was able to ask the seller questions directly, which they wouldn’t have been able to during a realtor-hosted showing, especially since she was looking at properties on the other side of the country. Here are some tips for attending a virtual home showing.
- Ask for the home’s disclosures beforehand. Your real estate agent should be able to get a list of “defects,” so you know what to look for and what to ask about before you even tune in.
- Get the floorplan. When you’re watching on a screen, it can be easy to get lost. Think of it like the map to a guided tour of a city.
- Ask lots of questions. It might be harder to get a feel for the house when you aren’t actually standing in it. There are no bad questions when it comes to making this kind of investment, so ask away. If you’re doing a live virtual viewing, you may need to hold your questions until the end. Write them down as you go so you don’t forget. Some things you’ll want to ask about no matter what, regardless of the specific house. Come prepared with your list of those questions – how long has the house been on the market, when was it last renovated – as well.
- Learn the software. You’ll probably see tours on a variety of platforms – Facebook, Zoom and even real estate-specific software. Don’t miss the tour because you were trying to figure out the technology.
What should I know if I’m selling during the pandemic?
If you want someone to make an offer, you need them to feel at home and be able to picture themselves in the house. There are several ways to do this, but here are some of our favorites:
- Focus on curb appeal. Because it might not be possible for buyers to tour the house in person, expect them to at least do a drive-by. That means they need to get a really good feeling just by looking at it from the street. This is important in any market, but it might be even more so during a pandemic. Spruce up the landscaping, clean and repair the porch, paint your front door an appealing color and make sure the lighting is perfect. And don’t forget the garage door, which is routinely named as one of the biggest bangs for your buck when it comes to remodeling projects for resale.
- Prepare for virtual showings. Plan the route you’ll take as you guide your “guests” through the house and know what you’re going to say, just as you would if you were public speaking. Do a test run at different times of the day to see how lighting affects the video quality. And just as you would if you were showing your home in person – or on a video call for work – be sure to clean up and find a safe place for pets where they won’t interrupt.
- Get ready to answer questions. Homebuyers are likely to make more personal, to-the-point inquiries, particularly if they’re viewing your house virtually. Start by figuring out what questions you would ask when buying a house during coronavirus, then prepare those answers for your own house.
- Install a smart lock. If you are allowing potential buyers to tour the home in person, you might be able to practice social distancing by not even needing to be on-site at the same time. A smart lock with unique and programmable access codes can make it easy for your realtor to show the house without you having to be there to let them in, to exchange keys or to mess with one of those lock boxes. You can take the smart lock with you when you move out, too.
- Stage your house. This isn’t unique to the times, but you might stage your house keeping in mind those new priorities we mentioned at the very beginning. Perhaps you show a spare room as an office rather than a craft room. Or emphasize how inviting and relaxing your back deck oasis can really be.
A lot goes into buying and selling your house. Get more tips, from deciding which projects to tackle for resale value to packing advice to what to do first when finally move in, from Schlage’s real estate resources.