New Real Estate Rules in the COVID-19 World

Home Buying Keys
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We now live in a strange unfamiliar world with very different rules regarding our social interactions.

Real Estate Deemed Essential Service

The real estate market encountered a near-complete shut down after the stay-at-home orders happened in March (2020), but surprisingly the market has been coming back to life. Real estate was deemed an “essential service” and realtors were allowed back to work soon after the shutdown.

But the world is changed. We now live in a strange unfamiliar world with very different rules regarding our social interactions. House hunting and selling real estate looks and feels changed, maybe forever.

The rules about how showings and closings are allowed to take place and what agents can do and not do will vary depending on local public health regulations, real estate association guidelines, and individual comfort levels.

For instance, you now may need to book an appointment for an “open” house. There may be waivers to sign before looking at a home. And get comfortable with those masks, sanitizing wipes, and shoe covering “booties”. These are the new realities of home buying, and many agents say that most of these protocols are likely to stick around.

Here are some ways the buying and selling of homes have changed.

There are new rules for home tours and open houses

Buyers should expect hand sanitizer and masks to be part of any home-buying experience these days. But other aspects of house hunting and closing the deal may come as a bit of a surprise.

You may be only allowed to go into a home one at a time.
You may need an appointment in advance.
There may be someone at the door minding who goes in and out.
You may be asked to wait in your car until the realtor arrives to meet you.
Children may need to wait outside with one of the parents while the other goes inside or they may not be allowed in the home at all.
You will have to wear a mask and possibly disposable gloves while holding a disinfecting wipe to open and close the doors.
Or you may be instructed that while touring the home to avoid touching any surfaces in the home, such as light switches, cabinet and door handles.
You may be told not to use bathroom facilities at the property (which you shouldn’t have been doing anyway).
You may need to sign a disclosure stating that you don’t have any symptoms or have you had any contact with anyone with symptoms, from both the buyer and the seller.

Closings Are Different

Closings are being conducted with a minimum number of people in the room and social distancing is enforced. Participants are often asked to bring their own pens. Some are having hybrid closings and some offer all virtual closings.

A hybrid closing may be where all parties meet in-person to e-sign and e-notarize some digital documents as well as physically sign and notarize other documents.
An electronic closing is when all parties appear in-person and all documents are e-signed and e-notarized.
A remote online closing is when everything is e-signed and e-notarized using two way audio and video over the internet. Parties do not need to be in the same room.

The National Association of Realtors states that all brokers and agents should continue to take measures to limit in-person activities as much as possible, and consider holding virtual meetings as an alternative to in-person meetings and events.  

Gone are the days of the big table where all the parties and their representatives meet together – now it’s mostly online.

Realtors Have Adjusted Their Marketing

Some realtors have invested in their own 3D cameras or have hired video companies that were once only used for the more high-end expensive homes prior to the pandemic. These companies are now being used for many other price points in the market. Others, however, aren’t spending more money but instead investing in giving more time to their buyers by doing live virtual phone walk-throughs. This way their clients can view the property safely and ask questions about what they see. Virtual floor plans are usually a great addition, as is another fun option something called Virtual Staging, which is using computer-generated images of couches, coffee tables, and rugs to dress up a vacant room properly. The first showing is rarely done in person anymore. Money spent on beautiful brochures are no longer needed nor wanted.

Realtors are no longer waiting to put the property online either. In the past, waiting for the right 5-day marketing window, which was historically a Thursday was smart. Homes would also rarely be put online before a holiday weekend because no one would be home and no one was looking! Now it’s one of the best times! People are looking online when they have time off from work (which for some work is now at home). People really aren’t doing a lot of traveling and having the ability to search for their perfect home is right in front of them on their computers. The rules are changing dramatically, and some realtors have used the last few months to drastically change the way they do business.

What Is Important…

What’s becoming clear in the real estate market is that everyone’s tolerance and requirements for their safety are different. Whether you feel comfortable in the new rules or feel they are an inconvenience is up to each individual to decide. As a Realtor, I am pleased with the new safety measures during this time. I also enjoy that the home buying and selling process has moved more online, which seemed to be the direction we were moving in, but now has become a necessity. I believe the online switch saves everyone time and is more efficient. Because, at the end of the day, some Realtors think their image is what’s most important to a client, when in fact, it may be that what is most important is actually convenience, ease of the process, comfort in knowing someone is looking out for their best interests, is professionally executed, and not a terrible disruption to their lives. Some of the new changes seem to be good, so far!