As a prospective seller, we know you have questions (and likely concerns) about putting your home on the market and selling it during a pandemic.
Since shelter-in-place became the new norm in March of 2020, nearly every aspect of the home selling process has changed dramatically – consultations, photos, showings, open houses, and closings have all been affected in different ways.
That said, we have brainstormed, added necessary precautions, and been able to adapt nearly every aspect of the home selling process to get your home sold – even during these uncertain times! We take all recommendations from officials and the CDC into account to keep our clients, buyers, ourselves, and the rest of the community safe. In addition, we have have incorporated new tech in order to position our client’s homes in the best light in a more virtual world – all while maintaining social distancing and keeping everyone safe.
Before Covid-19, initial seller consultations were almost always done in-person. Coronavirus has largely put in person consultations on hold – however, we are doing home selling consultations via Zoom and FaceTime now for the majority of our sellers. That way we can “meet” you and have you walk us through your home so we can discuss any decluttering, staging, repairs or updates that need to be done to sell your home for top dollar. After our online meeting, we will email you a list of recommendations for decluttering, repairs, and updates so you have a complete report of what needs to be done to get your home market ready. We can bring in our recommended contractors to do exterior repairs and landscaping while still following social distancing guidelines and our stager is available via Zoom to help you with furniture placement and decluttering ideas. For interior repairs, we’ll work with you to discuss if you feel comfortable leaving your house while any needed interior repairs are done or we can skip doing any interior repairs and offer a credit to the buyer for the work instead. For non-occupied homes we can arrange interior repairs, painting, staging, etc as we would normally in a non-Covid world.
For those who want in person consultations, we are happy to do those as well once we’ve done an initial Zoom call and just ask that everyone present wear masks.
CORONAVIRUS AND HOME PRICES
We are sure you have questions about how the market is doing and what will happen with home prices in the next couple of months. Right now clients often hope that we can give reassurance regarding future home prices, but the honest truth is that we can’t. No one can as no one knows exactly how long this new reality will last or how bad it may get. We track the prices of homes throughout the area on a weekly basis and can provide comps for recently sold listings to give you our professional opinion on what your home should be listed for today, but we cannot predict what will happen in the future as Covid19 is unpredictable. What we can do is assure you that we will stay on top of pricing and trends so we can update you regularly on what is happening with the housing market.
For a brief overview, March and April were incredibly slow in the real estate world as people didn’t want to leave their homes for showings. However, starting in early May the market began picking up as buyers adapted to his new norm. June was wildly busy once the shelter in place order was lifted and was just as busy as any normal spring market with multiple offers on many properties and properties often selling in days as there was pent up buyer demand from buyers dreaming of more space and looking online for the past few months coupled with still low inventory levels. However, in July an interesting situation began to develop. The condo market began to slow down as Covid cases increased and people began getting more concerned about the long term affects of Covid on the economy. This slowdown has continued into August and September with showings down week over week on condos as well as properties going under contract. That said, single family homes and townhouses are seeing a boost in interest due to Covid, particularly in the suburbs as people look for more space and less dense areas to live. So what we’ve been seeing since July is that some properties (single family houses and townhouses) are benefitting from Covid while others such as condos are being hurt by Covid. We also believe the unrest in Chicago this summer has played a part in cooling the Chicago housing market, particularly the condo market downtown and in areas near to downtown such as the Gold Coast, River North and Streeterville. Going forward, we believe the single family home and, to a lesser degree, the townhouse market will continue to be hot, whereas, we are concerned the condo market, particularly in high rise buildings, will continue to slow down resulting in price decreases for condos over the fall and winter. Right now high rises are particularly difficult to sell as many buyers don’t want to have to walk through busy lobbies, share elevators with strangers, etc. Overall, it’s too early to say what will happen to the housing market in 2021 as that will depend on the results of the election, the economy, how bad Covid is over the winter and if there is a vaccine. The good news is that some buyers will still want to take advantage of the ridiculously low interest rates (we had a client lock in a 2.75% interest rate on a loan the other day) and we are seeing clients move from more expensive markets such as San Fran, NYC and Boston to Chicago since it’s more affordable, they can get more space, and they can work remotely from anywhere for the foreseeable future so we don’t think the market will come to a complete standstill this winter unless Covid cases really spike. That said, we are encouraging all of our sellers to get on the market asap as we are concerned about an overall slow down in the housing market in early 2021 due to Covid and the economy so we think your best time to sell is now as we do fear prices could be lower in 2021.
Vacant homes will largely have the same marketing plan now as they did before Covid-19 with the addition of Matterport tours, video walk throughs for every property and floor plans along with high quality professional photos. With the video walk throughs we shoot ourselves walking through your home pointing out each unique feature just as if we were walking a buyer through your home for an in person showing. We will still use the utmost caution to keep our vendors and staff safe, however these homes follow original marketing plans as before and are easier to schedule in-person showings.
For owner occupied properties we are also shooting 3D Matterport tours as well as video walk throughs and floor plans before going on the market to decrease the number of in-person showings. We are also photographing areas we may not have shot before such as storage closets, attics, parking spaces, laundry rooms, etc to give buyers a fuller sense of the property online to help them determine if it’s the right property for them before they schedule an in-person showing. To keep everyone safe we are asking sellers not be home during the photography and Matterport shoot, which takes about 2 -3 hours total. We will ask you to leave all lights on and all bedroom and bathroom doors open so the photographer only has to touch the front door handle. We will request he not touch anything else in the property and that he come alone to keep the people in your home to the bare minimum.
For sellers who are not open to having anyone inside your home, we can offer a completely virtual marketing plan and will give you tips for staging and ways to help you photograph your own home rather than us bringing in a professional photographer. The photos you take can then be edited by our photography gurus.
Our listings are then being enhanced on sites such as Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia to ensure your home gets top placement in each site’s search results as more buyers are heavily relying on online search platforms than ever before. We are also using a retargeting service through Adwerx.com to have an ad about your home follow prospective buyers around the internet no matter where they are online.
In general we are heavily increasing our online advertising of your home since most people are online more now than ever before.
HOME SHOWINGS AND “OPEN HOUSE” PROTOCOL
While we follow strict home showing protocols approved by the National Association of REALTORS® in cooperation with the Center for Disease Control, whether a seller will allow an in-person showing or not is completely up to you the seller. For sellers who are not comfortable with in-person showings we will ask the seller to Zoom or Facetime the potential buyer through the home with us as well as the buyer’s agent on the call. That way as the listing agents we can highlight features of the home while you walk through the home with your cell phone or tablet and we can answer buyer’s questions in real time. For those sellers comfortable with in-person showings we are asking every buyer who wants to see your home to sign a health disclosure assessing their current health and asking whether they have been in contact with anyone with Covid19; they will not be allowed in the home if they are having any symptoms or have been around anyone with symptoms. In addition, they are required to provide us with a preapproval or proof of liquid funds, view both the Matterport 3D tour and the video walk through before we will allow an in person showing, and review all condo docs if the property is part of a HOA. Once a serious buyer has viewed all of the materials we will arrange for an in person showing at a time that is convenient for your work and family schedule. For in-person showings, showings are limited to 4 people including the buyer’s agent and all parties at the showing must wear booties, gloves, and a protective face mask before being allowed inside your home. We are conducting “touchless showings” meaning you will be asked to leave all lights on and bedroom and closet doors open and the buyers will be asked to not touch anything during the showing except the front door handle.
While in-person open houses are legal, whether we do one for your property is a completely up to you. If you are comfortable with an open house we are happy to do one and will require everyone wear PPE and not touch anything. Otherwise, if you prefer to skip them that is completely fine as well. Anyone who is serious about your home will make a private appointment to view it in person.
IN PERSON SAFETY
After getting the house on the market then under contract, there are still a number of steps that need to be conducted to get to closing. Right now, inspectors, appraisers, repair people and movers are all still working. In general we are asking only the inspector attend the inspection (sellers leave during the inspection) and that he or she Facetime the buyers at the end of the inspection to go through the results or that the buyers only come for the end of the inspection for the recap. We are asking lenders to approve drive-by appraisals when possible so appraisers don’t need to come into your home for the appraisal and we are recommending negotiating an inspection credit to avoid needing to make any repairs and have repair people in your home
Everything else from signing docs to closing can be done electronically.
At the end of the day, people still need to move and many people believe real estate will lead the economic recovery our country needs. No matter what, our top priority is the health and safety of you and your family. Selling your home is a stressful process under the best of circumstances and we recognize selling during a pandemic adds a whole other level of stress so please reach out at any time with questions or concerns. We’re here for you and will continue to guide you with expert advice while keeping your safety our top priority.