Real Estate sales restart…

The Governor of Michigan has modified her Executive order to allow for the resumption of real estate sales activities, with necessary precautions. The COVID-19 pandemic is anything but over in Michigan and elsewhere across the country; however, economic and political pressures have reached the breaking  point and states across America are “re-opening”. 

What does that mean for home sellers or potential homebuyers?

First, it means that the risk of catching the Corona Virus and getting very sick is still very real. Let’s not discount that. It appears to be a risk that many are willing to take in order to get back to work; but are the home buyers and sellers willing to take the same risk? Apparently, so.

Given the fact that your home purchase (or sale) is likely the biggest financial transaction that you will ever make, let’s look at what is being done to make this transaction as safe as possible during this pandemic.

First off, the real estate brokerages, multi-list services, title companies and others involved in the sale are creating and agreeing upon a set of health safety guidelines for doing in-person visits to homes that are for sale. They have used guidance from the CDC, Federal and State health officials to create a set of recommended protocols for listings and showings. These protocols have the expected requirements for visitors to use PPE when doing in-person visits and for sellers to take the necessary steps to clean and sanitize the property before and after each visit.

Actually, the first thing they did was to have their lawyers draw up release of liability forms – one that sellers must sign in order to list a property and one for buyers to sign before going on an in-person visit. This is acknowledgement that the Realtors involved don’t (and can’t) know if the sellers have sick members in the home or if the buyers may be sick without knowing it. So, these are “buyers and sellers beware” forms that hold the broker and agents harmless is someone (on either side) contracts the virus due to a visit.

The PPE requirements for buyers/visitors include wearing a mask and gloves during the visit (with shoe covering also recommended), not touching anything during the visit and using hand sanitizer after the visit. Visits are also limited to 4 people max, so bringing Mom and Dad and Uncle Joe is discouraged. It is probably best to leave any children at home, too. Many Realtors will have PPE available for visitors, if they don’t have their own by now.

Recommendations for the sellers include having all lights on and all interior doors already open and re-sanitizing after each visit, just in case anything was touched. Realtors and visitors are admonished not to turn lights off, so they don’t have to touch the switches. Sellers are advised to take their homes off the market or stop showing it, if anyone in the household is sick with the virus. With increased testing and tracking, that may include people who have been in contact with someone who is confirmed to have the virus.

The ancillary functions and services like home inspections, appraiser visits, movers  and the like are allowed; however if alternatives like drive-by appraisal are available, that is recommended. Services like picture taking for listing pictures will also be allowed, but under the same PPE guidelines as for any visit.

Given all of this, the questions remain, is it a good time to sell or buy a house.

From the seller’s perspective, even though there is extra work involved in getting the home ready and keeping it safe for visits, it is still a good time as far as the selling price is concerned. The inventory of homes on the market is still low. Prices have not dropped like they did in the 2007/08 Great Recession and mortgage rates remain at a historic low. On the downside, the time to get to a closing has stretched out a bit and mortgage underwriters have tightened up requirements and lowered appraisal values (especially if they could not do an in-person appraisal visit). The pool of potential buyers has also shrunk, due to people being laid off from work. Still, ,it’s not a bad time to be a seller, one just has to be more patient and work a little more at it.

The buyer side of the equation has been impacted quite a bit more, with a significant number of people who might have been buyers now sidelined by layoffs or outright loss of jobs. For some, the prolonged loss of income has also decimated the down payment savings of many, pushing their plans to buy further out into the future. For others, who perhaps were able to continue to work from home and not dip into their savings, this isn’t a bad time to buy, just a strange one. Everything that you need to do to buy a home is do-able; you just need to proceed with caution.

Buyers should try to minimize their exposure to in-person visits by doing most of your shopping on line. Take the time to look through the pictures  and virtual tours that are available on-line to eliminate homes that you can see have obvious things that you don’t like. It used to be just a big waste of everyone’s time to make lots of visits to homes that you really hadn’t evaluated with the data and pictures that were available to you on line. Now it is also dangerous, as well as a waste of everyone’s time. This is not “tire kicking” time. There will also be no open houses allowed during this pandemic.

For many Realtors this is a tough time. It is not possible to just throw a switch and turn on a business like real estate sales. Those who had clients at the beginning of this probably still have them, although some may have wandered away and decided to wait a while longer to sell or buy. All agents will be advertising that they are using safe practices with sellers and buyers and all will be trying to do that; however, this is called the invisible enemy for a reason – you can’t see it coming. Buyers, sellers and agents are advised to consider anyone that they come in contact with, or who visits a home, as a COVID-19 carrier and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family.

Welcome to the “new normal”. Want to buy or sell a house? Message me and let’s talk.

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