Real Estate Selling

How to Sell Your House When There’s a Pandemic

Use this vital info to find a buyer and manage all the house-selling processes as smoothly and safely as possible now.
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The Changing Housing Market

According to Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index, the percentage of Americans who think it’s a good time to buy a home continues to drop as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers across the nation. By implementing some creative strategies, however, you should be able to find the right buyer and work through the complex transactions.

Skip Open Houses

During an open house, potential buyers (and more than a few looky-loos) get the opportunity to walk through a home without feeling pressured by an agent to make an offer. While it’s a great marketing technique during healthy times, it’s dangerous during a pandemic and may even be banned in your community. Stay on the safe side and eschew open houses in favor of other viewing methods.

Create Showing Kits

If you must live in your home while it’s on the market, either you or your listing agent can create a “showing kit” that will minimize the risk of exposure to a virus during a home showing. The kits should contain items such as disposable gloves, shoe bootie covers, masks, and hand sanitizer for the agent and the potential buyers to use during the showing.

Encourage Hand Washing

Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent spreading a virus, and you can’t remind people enough—especially if they’ve got their mind on other things, like buying your house. Even the simple measure of putting out signs by the bathroom and kitchen sink that encourage thorough handwashing will help reduce the risk of germ transfer. Beside the signs, place bottles of antibacterial hand soap and a roll of paper towels.

Disinfect Before and After

Even though you might take meticulous precautions, there’s no guarantee that the people who view your home during a showing will be as careful, so disinfect your home before a showing as well as afterwards. Focus on disinfecting high-contact areas such as doorknobs, drawer pulls, countertops, light switches, and faucets.

Related: The Top 10 Germiest Spots in Your Home, According to Science

Move Out

Many people have no choice but to live in a home while it’s on the market—leaving only for a few hours here and there when a showing is scheduled. But if at all possible, consider renting a house during this time to reduce in-person contact. Your real estate listing agent might be able to help locate a place you can rent on a month-to-month basis.

Related: 18 Hidden Costs of Moving

Opt for Virtual Showings

Professional quality photos and videos have long been important for catching the eye of potential buyers, but now, savvy real estate agents are conducting virtual showings in real time so buyers can attend a showing via a laptop or tablet. Apps such as FaceTime and Google Meet allow buyers to “walk through” a house with their agent, asking questions and getting a chance to see the entire house without stepping through the door.

Consider E-Offers

It’s customary for the buyers’ agent to sit down with her buyers when they make an offer and then present that offer in person to the seller’s agent, who in turn presents it to the sellers. Because an offer to buy your house can be complex, ask your agent to email it, and then go through it together over the phone. If you decide to accept the offer, you will need to sign the original contract (not an e-copy), but your agent can put it in your mailbox for you to retrieve and then pick up once you’ve signed.

Expect Delays

Glitches in real estate transactions can crop up during the best of times, but during a pandemic, they’re almost a given. Be flexible and prepared to deal with delays that push back the closing date due to social distancing, travel restrictions, and other unavoidable circumstances. It may also be more difficult during this time to schedule inspections and appraisals, and—worst case scenario—if you or the buyer become infected, it could postpone the transaction for the duration of the quarantine and recovery period.

Related: The 7 Most Annoying Things About Buying a Home

Don’t Accompany the Inspector

After you’ve accepted an offer, a home inspector will check the house from top to bottom to prepare a report for the buyer’s mortgage company. Typically, home sellers tag along with the inspector to answer questions and point out various details, but during a pandemic it’s unwise to put yourself in close physical contact with someone unnecessarily. Instead, if you want to share information with the inspector—such as the age of your HVAC unit—leave a note, and then vacate the house just as you would with a showing. Be sure to disinfect before and after as well.

Ask for a Virtual Appraisal

Lenders require a professional appraisal to ensure the house is worth the money they’re lending the buyers. While inspections must be done in person, some lenders are suspending the in-person rule for appraisals. To arrange for this, you or your real estate agent must send measurements of the interior and exterior of your home along with extensive photos of each room that show the condition of the home so the appraiser can determine an accurate value without stepping onto the premises.

Attend a Remote Closing

A real estate closing is a multi-prong event where the final documents are signed and money is distributed to the sellers, the real estate agents involved, and to anyone else who is owed money, such as an inspector or an appraiser. Today, more closing companies are limiting in-person contact by using software such as Qualia, which allows entire closings to be conducted online. When you accept an offer on your home, ask your agent to use a closing company that offers remote closings.