I never thought I’d be writing about buying or selling a home during the pandemic, but here we are. The coronavirus has changed the way we do everything and real estate is no exception. And while some potential homebuyers may prefer to hold off until the situation improves, there are still sellers and buyers who need to make a move now. To help navigate the uncharted waters of home selling in the time of coronavirus, realtors are adapting their services to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their clients throughout every step of the home selling or home buying process.
At the time of publication (April 13, 2020), realtors and associated real estate professionals (real estate brokerages, mortgage brokerages, and real estate appraisers) are currently considered essential service providers by the provincial government. Real estate regulatory bodies and licensing agencies have established new guidelines that realtors will use to assist their clients during the home selling or buying process.
As information on coronavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly changing, the advice or information in this article should not be used in place of the information provided by Alberta Health Services and the Government of Alberta.
First, negotiate your COVID-19 safety strategy
Before you iron out your home-selling strategy, the first conversation with your realtor should focus on risk mitigation and personal safety. This isn’t just a recommendation; it’s a must.
Your realtor will discuss with you the unique risks and challenges associated with buying and selling a home during the pandemic. Whether you're a seller, buyer, landlord, or tenant, your realtor will go over available options that will help keep you and your family safe during this process.
Pandemic risk reduction for home sellers
Virtual viewings and meetings
Reduce in-person meetings with your real estate agent as much as possible and consider investing in a virtual home tour and high-quality photography so that your listing really shines online and potential buyers can better evaluate your listing without having to step foot inside.
Open houses are not currently permitted, so having a robust online listing is your best bet for getting eyes on your property. Some agents may be willing to provide a virtual open house using social networking apps like FaceTime, Facebook, Instagram Live, or Zoom.
Establish pre-screening and viewing conditions
Realistically, serious potential buyers will still want (and are still entitled) to view your listing in person, but there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk. As a seller, you can screen potential buyers and their representatives. Screening measures may include a questionnaire that asks about recent travel and disclosure of any symptoms. While visitors are not obligated to complete the questionnaire, ultimately you do not have to allow anyone into your home if you feel they may pose an undue risk to you and your family.
You can stipulate that potential buyers and their agents must use gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer while in your home and also limit the surfaces they are permitted to touch (door knobs, light switches, etc.). To help, you may want to leave all lights on and open cupboards, doors, and drawers to help facilitate this. Your realtor can help document these directions in writing and communicate them to the buyer’s agent on your behalf. These conditions can also apply to home photography companies and home inspectors.
Arrange for post-home-showing cleaning and disinfection
This may be as simple as having your agent wipe down high-touch surfaces before locking up your home, or you may want to hire a professional cleaning service to maximize cleanliness and disinfection of your home at various stages throughout the selling process.
Coronavirus safety tips for home buyers
Digital due diligence whenever possible
Do as much as you can online. Once you have a shortlist of homes that you are interested in, take advantage of virtual viewings and remotely connect with your realtor, mortgage lender, and lawyer as much as possible. Offers can be made and accepted digitally and you can also digitally apply, qualify, and get approved for financing as well. Your home inspector can communicate the results of the home inspection electronically. Use technology anywhere you can to facilitate information sharing and for the transactional aspects of the process.
Establish viewing conditions
As a potential buyer, you may also seek conditions that reduce your risk before entering the home during a showing. For example, you can ask for a virtual video tour or ask that lights be left on, and doors, closets, and some drawers be left open. Your real estate agent will document your directions in writing and communicate them to the seller’s agent.
Consult with your agent and lawyer regarding additional purchase contract clauses
In this rapidly changing landscape, new measures are being enacted on a daily basis in response to the evolving situation. In real estate, we’re seeing new COVID-related clauses being added to home purchase contracts.
Some clauses simply make provisions to allow for digital signing of documents and electronic funds transfer, while others specify terms under which the closing date can be automatically extended should there be a temporary closure of the land registry or financial institutions. And other clauses indemnify buyers should a deal fall through due to COVID-related circumstances; for example, should a tenant refuse to leave while there is currently a freeze on evictions.
Ultimately, your lawyer is the best resource to discuss any legal implications that clauses or waivers may incur and to advise how to protect your interests if you’re buying or selling a home during the pandemic.
An experienced realtor can help
These are challenging times in every sense. As we continue to adapt and shift the way we do things in response to COVID-19, we work towards achieving a new normal where we can perform necessary tasks while helping keep each other safe.
Do you have questions about how coronavirus is affecting the real estate market? As a trusted real estate professional with over 15 years of experience, Wally can help you navigate the home selling and buying process. Contact Wally online or call/text at 780.238.7384