Updated 3/31/20: With the new stay at home order for Virginia, we are now ONLY utilize virtual showings. Please reach out with any questions; we will continue to monitor the market and bring you updates on how these changes are affecting home sales.
Typically when March rolls into April, we are busy prepping homes for sale and putting listings on the market while spending our evenings watching softball games and eating dinner well after dark. The last two weeks have brought tremendous upheaval in our personal lives, as well as the way that we are conducting business. If there’s anything that working in real estate has taught us, you have to be nimble to continue taking care of clients during shifting circumstances. Here’s quick look into how we are adjusting our business practices to take care of you during this difficult time:
Listing Homes Safely:
Yes, we are still able to put homes on the market and conduct business. Virginia has determined that real estate is an essential business (people still need to find housing, even now). To ensure that our listings are capable of being shown virtually in their best light, we utilize professional photography and 3D walkthrough tours. If buyers want to see a listing in person, at our seller’s request, we are asking the buyers’ agent to submit a Buyers Health Questionnaire for the day of showing to confirm the buyers do not have a fever or cough, haven’t been exposed to anyone with the virus, haven’t traveled in the last 14 days by plane/train/bus, are driving separately from their agent, and aren’t bringing any elderly or children to the showing with them. The showing agent will remain outside the home while the buyer tours through. We are asking our sellers to turn on all lights and open all interior doors to minimize the contact buyers will need to make to view the home.
Our sellers can also choose to only allow virtual showings but this has to be done for ALL potential buyers to abide by fair housing regulations. At this time, we are not conducting traditional open houses on our listings.
Utilizing an Instant Offer:
If you need to get the equity out of your home right away, but aren’t quite ready to move and/or purchase your next home yet, we have access to an offer program that could allow you sell now, receive a portion of your home’s equity immediately, and then rent back for up to 18 months. There are a number of variables involved with this, so please contact us directly for more details.
Showing Homes Safely:
Virtual showings are of course the optimal choice right now. We’ve always been capable of doing this, and have utilized Facetime or Skype for out of town clients in the past. Many homes on the market now have 3D walkthroughs available to show you the flow of the rooms, but if our clients are interested in one that doesn’t have adequate photography or virtual tour footage, we can schedule a time to walk the house virtually with them.
If you want to view a home in person, we can work with the listing agent to make this happen. For everyone’s safety, you will need to complete the Buyer Health Questionnaire and will not be able to bring extra family members to your showing. Please understand that we will maintain social distancing during our showing, but will still be able to answer questions and represent your interests as always. (Even if we can’t shake hands or hug you!)
Covid-19 Contract Addendum:
The uncertainty around quarantines and safety could affect purchase contracts in a variety of ways. We now have an addendum to the contract to address these uncertainties and give buyers and sellers guidance should an issue arise that is out of their control. The addendum reads, in part:
“Buyer and seller acknowledge that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic may have unforeseeable and indefinite impacts on real estate transactions. This Addendum is designed to protect the parties from Default in the event they are unable to perform due to circumstances beyond their control.”
Utilized at the time of contract ratification, it will give a provision to adjust settlement date or other contractual deadlines if an ‘unforeseeable event’ occurs- a quarantine of buyer or seller, or closing of land records offices, for example. If you are already under contract, it can be used extend deadlines because of one of those events. (This is the part where I remind you I’m not a lawyer and this should not be considered legal advice.)
Other Potential Issues:
While we can’t prepare for every ‘what if’ scenario, we can do our best to make plans in case certain issues pop up. If the courts are closed, it’s possible the settlement company could do electronic filing so that closings can still happen. If buyers or sellers are quarantined and can’t attend settlement, it’s possible to perform electronic/remote settlements. We’ve been paperless in our business for the last five years, including the use of electronic signature software; now our title companies are able to utilize similar technology. Other tactical issues like home inspections and repairs could certainly be affected too, but can be simply handled via addendums between buyers and sellers.
Preparing to Sell or Buy Later This Year
We can continue with our typical buyer and seller consultations virtually. Now is a great time to tackle the to-do list for home repairs and landscaping clean up if you are planning to sell. We can virtually walk your house with you to make suggestions on what you can and should do to prepare your home. And the professional stager that we utilize for our listings can do virtual consultations, too! You can find out more via our What to Expect When You are Selling post.
For buyers, we can do our beginning consultation as a video chat or phone call, to help you get set up to monitor the market, answer your questions, and generally get you prepared for when the time comes for you to view homes. You can always start with our What To Expect When You are Buying post.
We are 100% committed to taking care of our clients in any circumstances. Our hearts are with our friends and family, and we hope that you are all safe. If there is anything that we can do to help you through this, please reach out and let us know. We are all in this together… and we are looking forward to the day when we can embrace you all in person again.
Heather and Mike