There’s no question that the business of real estate has gotten a lot more complicated in the age of COVID. However, it is still possible to buy or sell a house. You just need to adjust your process to address current concerns and restrictions.
If you’re buying
COVID-19 affirms the value of approaching your purchase in a methodical way. Here are some of the tasks you can accomplish by yourself, or through a phone or a video call.
- Get pre-qualified
- Interview real estate agents
- Research neighborhoods and school districts
- Make a wants vs. needs list
The Home Is Possible (HIP) programs are still available and provide bonus money to help with the down payment or closing costs. When you’re ready to buy, reach out to one of our HIP-qualified lenders and they can advise you on what you qualify for and which HIP program might work best for you. They can also help you better understand what’s going on in the crazy world of mortgage rates these days.
Related: Here’s the Scoop on Credit Scores
Once you’ve established how much you can afford and where you want to buy, your HIP-qualified real estate agent can help you find a home. They’ll start by sending you listings to give you an idea of what you can find in your price range, and that meet your requirements. As with house-hunting anytime, you may not get everything you want, so it’s a good idea to know beforehand what is on your must-have list and what is on the want-to-have list.
“Once I know what my clients are looking for, I send them online listings, along with the financials — what an approximate payment would be and what they qualify for,” explains Jesse Fonseca, a broker/salesperson with Park Place Realty in Las Vegas.
Many MLS listings already have virtual tours, but you could also ask the owner or agent to take you on a tour using FaceTime, Zoom or another video app, enabling you to ask questions or see specific things in real time.
Joe Tuzzolino and his fiancé video-toured their new home in southwest Las Vegas in March while they were both recovering from COVID-19. He says they ended up saving about $15,000 because they bought during the pandemic.
If the home is vacant, you can look around to your heart’s content, but try not to touch surfaces, as you don’t know who was in the home before you. If you must touch to evaluate the home, use hand sanitizer when you’re done with the tour, before you get in your car. And your agent will need to wipe down those surfaces when you leave. You’ll want to follow social distancing rules, staying 6 feet away from your real estate agent and anyone else you don’t currently share a home with. It’s always a good idea to wear a mask when you’re out of your home and around other people.
Though you may not be able to get into the home right away, you can still drive around the neighborhood to see if you like it. Fonseca recommends doing this at different times of day, even under normal buying circumstances.
“It not only looks different at different times of day, you might also see different levels of activity,” he says. And this is a great way to know if there’s a giant streetlight shining in the bedroom window.
This could also be a very good time to look at newly-built homes, since you don’t have to worry about anybody else living in the home before you. Joanne Farris and her husband found their dream home in a new development in Golden Valley in early March. They put their deposit down a few days before everything shut down and then they had to make a very big decision.
“We were getting ready to back out, but then we thought it through and decided this was the time,” she says. “We haven’t had any issues and I’m really glad we did it when we did.”
If you’re selling
Your listing is going to have to do a lot more of the heavy lifting these days since you can’t necessarily rely on flowers or chocolate cookie-scented candles to woo buyers. The answer? Investing in a quality virtual tour. You’ll definitely want to take lots of photos — the more the better. You’re relying on these photos to give your prospective buyer the experience of being in the home, so they matter now more than ever. Your real estate agent can guide you on what’s important to capture and what is less so.
In this area, technology is your friend. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) shares that: “Companies like Kleard offer on-demand open houses, Immoviewer offers video tours, and BombBomb offers video check-ins.” Your real estate agent can help you with both the technology and securing proper permissions for uploading to the MLS.
You might be able to have your agent host an open house. But COVID rules still apply:
- Survey potential buyers and do not let them enter the home if sick.
- Make sure all surfaces are regularly cleaned with alcohol-based sanitizer
- Don’t allow more than 10 people in the home at the same time. This includes the real estate agent.
- Try to ensure that guests stay at least 6 feet apart from those not in their household.
- Consider supplying some disposable masks for those who don’t bring their own.
- Have hand sanitizer and wipes available for visitors.
- Consider providing shoe covers for visitors.
Yes, selling a home today is more complicated, but it is not impossible. Move forward with your life — just remember to take precautions to protect yourself and others while you’re doing it.
And visit the Home Is Possible buyer webpage to find the program that’s the best fit for you and your family.