During the current national health crisis, it’s understandable that many Americans have delayed major life events when possible. However, some milestones can’t be postponed. Students have graduated high school, new babies have been born, and some couples have even tied the knot. And while some people may have the luxury of waiting to move into their dream home, others can’t put off putting their homes on the market.
That might not actually be a bad thing, as it turns out. Although total housing inventory was down by 20% year-over-year as of the week ending May 9, according to Zillow data, house values are actually still up by 4.3% compared to last year. And although the National Association of Realtors has reported that existing home sales took a dive in April, home prices actually increased — which suggests that housing demand is still on the rise.
In other words, you can still your home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But before you list, you’ll want to keep some additional considerations in mind.
Consider Holding Off if Major Repairs Are Necessary
Many homeowners are tackling property improvement projects during the pandemic. If your curb appeal needs a boost, for example, it’s probably fine to hire a landscaping company, roofing contractor, or fence repair business to take care of those exterior improvements before you sell your home. Since it’s usually not necessary for these professionals to traipse through your home, you won’t be taking much of a risk in terms of potential coronavirus exposure.
However, interior improvements may be another story. If you want to finish your basement prior to listing or your foundation needs work before you can sell, it might be best to hold off on those repairs when possible and to delay selling your home. Although concrete is used more than any other manmade material in the world, those who pour it will need access to your home for a longer period — thus increasing the risk of possible disease transmission. While that won’t pose a risk to prospective buyers, it could put your family at risk if you’re living in your home at the time.
Of course, you may have to deal with a home repair emergency during the pandemic. Ducted heating and cooling systems are installed in about 90% of new homes, but these systems are most likely to break during months with more severe temperatures. If your cooling system is on the fritz, you shouldn’t wait to have it repaired or replaced. By getting it taken care of before an emergency and before you sell, you’ll save yourself a major headache later on. Be sure to talk to any company or contractor you hire to find out about their COVID-19 safety practices and follow all recommended guidelines for masking, sanitizing, and social distancing during and after their visit.
Choose an Agent With a Digital Strategy
Only 11% of homeowners sell their properties on their own (known as FSBO, or “for sale by owner”). The vast majority of sellers need help when selling their home on the real estate market. Although you might be inclined to take a DIY approach to reduce the number of people involved in your home sale during a pandemic, this can actually work against you. Selling your house yourself can often result in lower prices and other costly mistakes — so it’s in your best interests to have a professional by your side (or from six feet away, at least).
The trick is to find an agent who has the technological setup and know-how to accommodate both you and prospective buyers during this challenging time. You should work with a realtor who’s able to accommodate virtual showings, digital property marketing, and electronic offers. Drone property footage and 3-D tours posted on listing websites can make a huge difference for buyers who might be hesitant to book an in-person showing. Your real estate agent should push for virtual showings whenever possible and should have the devices available to offer this feature in a way that is comparable to a physical experience. Some agents are even offering Facebook Live tours, which allow potential buyers to ask questions in real-time. Above all, your agent should be taking an abundance of precaution with any kind of showing.
Create Best Practices For Home Showings
Although the National Association of Realtors reported that 42% of buyers and 51% of sellers said in May that they’d delay the process of buying or selling a home due to COVID-19, the reality is that plenty of people are still looking to purchase property right now. If you and your agent do decide to offer in-person showings — which sometimes can’t be helped — it’s important to create a set of practices to follow before, during, and after.
One great idea, particularly if you’re still living in your home during this time, is to create kits of supplies for your agent and prospective buyers to wear and use during the showing. These kits should include a disposable mask, gloves, hand sanitizer, shoe covers, and sanitizing wipes. You should also put up reminders for everyone to wash their hands around bathrooms and kitchen sinks, making sure to provide plenty of soap, paper towels, and trash receptacles (ideally, with a foot pedal or an open basket to reduce touch contact) for guest use. It’s also a good idea to set short time limits for showings, have your agent ask interested buyers some short questions about any symptoms or exposure, open all doors and cabinets to reduce the need for physical touch and ask your agent to limit the number of people allowed in the home at any one time. You’ll also need to take care to thoroughly disinfect all surfaces before and after every showing, putting an emphasis on high-contact areas like faucets, doorknobs and handles, countertops, and light switches.
Ultimately, there’s always some level of risk of exposure when selling a home during COVID-19. However, it’s certainly possible to find a buyer — and get a great offer — in the midst of a pandemic. As long as you take these precautions and follow all official health guidance, as well as local ordinances, you can begin the next chapter in your life with relative safety.