What to know about working with a real estate agent during the pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered almost every facet of American life. This is especially true for realtors; with normal activities like open houses and showings now considered risky, the business of buying and selling homes looks very different now than it did at the beginning of the year.
While the federal government has deemed real estate an essential business, several other states – whose mandates take precedence over federal rulings – have categorized it as a non-essential service. Whether real estate is considered essential or non-essential, real estate agents have had to come up with new and creative ways to do their jobs.
Is it still possible to buy or sell a home during the pandemic? Absolutely! Here’s what you need to know when working with a real estate agent during the pandemic.
Choosing an agent
Whether you are buying or selling, working with the right agent makes all the difference. While families might normally meet with an agent in person at a coffee shop, in their home, or at the agent’s office, meeting with an agent has changed.
Talk to potential agents about what methods of communication you are comfortable using. Zoom, FaceTime, email, phone calls, and more are all tools agents can use to take the place of in-person meetings.
During the initial meeting with a real estate agent, they should go over the home buying process and discuss important documents such as purchase agreements. Buyers should be honest with their agent about their wish list and priorities; because much of the process will be done virtually, buyers need to be able to trust their agent to represent their wishes.
Viewings and showings
A buyer’s ability to tour a home in person varies by state. If real estate is considered an essential service, potential buyers can visit homes; however, many sellers and agents are taking additional precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Many sellers have created virtual tours of a home to limit the number of buyers visiting a property. This is an excellent option, particularly when buyers are first starting to look at properties. An in-person showing can be arranged for the final 1-2 homes buyers are seriously interested in. Likewise, agents may offer virtual tours over FaceTime or other video conferencing software for buyers that are not comfortable visiting a property in person.
Homes that have been previously vacated are another popular choice during the pandemic. If the sellers previously moved or vacated the property, there is less risk of transmission of the virus between potential buyers and the sellers.
Offers and closing
Because making an offer and negotiations on a contract are usually done remotely, very little of that process has changed. However, buyers or sellers may want to include additional addendums for any extensions or delays of inspections, appraisals, and more due to COVID-19.
An experienced agent can help walk buyers through the process of virtual inspections, appraisals, and closings. Inspectors can send photos or videos of any problems to the agent, for example, if buyers cannot be at the property in person. Likewise, closing may be able to be done virtually with remote online notarization; if a “wet” signature is required, discuss with your agent what precautions are being taken to protect buyers and sellers during the closing process.