Updating My Real Estate Business to Address Covid 19
Continuing to Serve My Clients
Over the last week numerous clients and friends have reached out to me by phone, text and email to ask me how I am handling my business in the face of the Covid-19 Virus. The questions are mostly around two things : 1) How is the virus impacting the way I do business and 2) What is my opinion/advice on how it will impact the real estate market overall in Cincinnati and beyond? In looking at my business, I can divide my current clientele and prospects into 3 groups: 1) Buyers or sellers who are already under contract on a property, or must sell or make a purchase in the next 30 days. 2) Buyers and sellers who have been active in the market to buy or sell and are still proceeding as planned. 3) People who are thinking about buying and selling in the near future. I wanted to give my perspective to all three of these groups.
My client’s health and safety ALWAYS comes first, and together we are navigating these unprecedented times. I continue to provide the real estate services that our clients need, while being cautious and compliant with the CDC and WHO mandates on social distancing, and taking the necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy.
I began to implement all of the steps described below this week. I used them while attending an inspection for a client and while providing a virtual tour of a property for a buyer via Facetime. The market is very active right now, so I want to be sure all of my clients and friends were informed.
For Clients In The Middle Of A Transaction
For my clients that are currently under contract on a property this is a very tenuous time. We are continuing to offer personal and uninterrupted service to our buyers and our sellers. I am also making a number of changes to keep everyone involved healthy and safe.
Prior to any photography/showings/inspections/final walkthroughs/closings, we are double checking to be sure that everyone is healthy. I am insisting that all of my contractors do wellness checks with their employees before they enter my client’s home.
- We are able to conduct closings one party at a time to maximize social distance, in home closings away from the public, or mail away closings. This can mean having parties sign in separate rooms or locations.
- I am requesting that closings take place in a private office and not in banks or busy title offices where there is more traffic or the general public is walking in and out.
- Home inspectors are asking buyers to not come to the full home inspection – instead arriving at the end to speak outside of the home. This affords buyers a chance to ask questions. Inspectors are also offering phone conversations after inspections in lieu of in person meetings to maximize social distance. Only the buyer is permitted to attend inspection no family members or friends are permitted to attend.
- I am offering virtual walk-throughs to clients who are unable to do final walk-throughs.
- Continuing to offer digital contract software for writing offers and to do as much of the transaction as possible electronically to minimize person to person contact.
All transactions are still being processed as scheduled by banks at this time. Some banks have shortened hours or some loan officers and title agents are working from home. We have not seen delayed timing at this point.
For Clients Preparing To List and Buyers Currently in The Market
I have a number of clients who are getting ready to put their homes on the market, or have already begun their home search prior to COVID-19. We are still listing houses and still working with our buyers who are practicing social distancing but still need to move – we are taking the necessary steps to make the process as safe and easy as possible. Because interest rates are low, buyers have more purchasing power, and they are actively looking for properties. Here are the steps I am taking to protect my buyers, my sellers, my co-workers and their clients, and myself. This is not an exhaustive list but provides some examples of the measures we are taking.
- I am reaching out to all agents before showings and inquiring about their client’s health. My listing clients don’t want sick people in their homes, and my buyers do not want to walk through sick people’s homes. This includes people who have been exposed to others who are sick.
- For listing clients: For both local and out of town buyers seeking to view my listed properties who are unable to travel or agents that are not comfortable walking through my listings due to social distancing, I have and will continue to offer a 3D virtual tour with a 3D floorplan and dollhouse view. In addition I can offer a personalized walk-through via Skype or Facetime upon request.
- Asking sellers who occupy homes that I have listed to only leave out 1 brochure per showing to ensure less physical contact on the marketing materials. I will also provide the option to sellers of eliminating paper marketing and only offer digital brochures as requested.
- Sellers are asked to step out during home inspections to limit person to person contact with the inspector. Home inspectors are wiping down all surfaces after they inspect them with sanitizing wipes for seller’s protection.
- I am asking that my buyers drive themselves and follow me as we drive from home to home. It is an easy way to keep social distance.
- When I take buyers into homes I am asking them to; leave their personal items in their car (purse, overcoats, water bottles), refrain from touching surfaces, door knobs, or any personal items in the homes, and remove their shoes. Buyers will also be asked to sanitize hands between showings.
- For buyer clients that are not comfortable touring homes in person I am able to offer virtual tours over Facetime or other video conferencing software.
- There are no longer overlapping showings with other buyers permitted so you will not be in a home with other buyers.
- I will not be meeting clients nor taking them out if they are ill or have been in contact with someone who is ill especially when there are technological solutions to bridge this gap.
- Buyers can remain at their home and receive a phone call from the home inspector who can review all findings and photos regarding any defects in the property.
- Regarding closing procedures, buyers and sellers can opt for closing documents to be emailed to them or mailed to them so that they can sign in their homes in front of a notary upon request so they can remain in their homes. For those who are still interested in closing outside of the home, separate accommodations can be made for buyers and sellers who have different preferences.
Clients That Are Considering Listing Their Current Home Or Beginning A Home Search in the Next Few Weeks or Months
I have been a Realtor for almost 20 years. I entered the business in June of 2001 and have weathered the storms in this business through 9/11, during the financial collapse in 2008, and now the Covid-19 challenge that is currently upon us. The real estate market has seen difficult times but has always managed to cycle back. People will always need a place to live and I will continue to be here to serve the needs of those buyers and sellers.
There are a handful of drivers that move people to buy and sell over the next few weeks and months. Interest rates right now are at record lows which provides many move up buyers the leverage to purchase a more expensive home than they could have afforded a few months ago. Sellers can take advantage of limited inventory which makes their house a good option for the many buyers who are looking to take advantage of the interest rates. Buyers looking to downsize can lock in a low rate so that they can maximize their purchasing power and reduce their monthly payments on their retirement homes.
- Move up Buyers: Whether a family is out of space due to more people under the same roof or have increased their income to a point where they can afford to purchase a larger home. This buyer is looking to increase their price point and square footage.
- Relocating locally, domestically, or internationally: All across the country companies are still hiring employees and transferring them to new locations. These families have to sell their homes and have to buy in their new home town. While some may choose to rent, many look to establish roots as soon as they can and integrate into schools and their new community. There are also many families that we work with who relocate locally due to job change, want to be in a new neighborhood or school district.
- Downsizing: Some homeowners are looking to move out of their large family homes and into smaller homes, condos, or lifestyle homes with less property inside and out to upkeep. This can also apply to people whose financial or life circumstance has led them to make a move to a smaller or less expensive property.
- Investment: Families who are concerned about the financial markets and want to diversify their portfolio by purchasing investment properties.
A Final Thought
Today and for the immediate future, the home buying and sale process will require flexibility and the ability to continue to accommodate the ever changing needs of my clients. At this point in time, my physical office in Kenwood is closed to protect the health and safety of the agents and our clients, but I am always just a phone call away and am still operating my business out of my home office. I am still listing homes for sale and showing homes to my buyer clients who need to move. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you have about the real estate market, your home and it’s value, return on investment for updates you are looking to do or anything else.
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