The economy is opening up across the country–though there are still spikes in coronavirus cases and reasons to be worried about moving too soon–but you need to sell houses, COVID or no COVID. Different states have different guidelines (how many people you can fit in a building, whether or not you need masks, how to monitor contact tracing) but that doesn’t mean that you can’t put a house up for sale, show it to prospective buyers, and close a deal despite social distancing. 

Step One: Talk About What’s Immediate

Buyers of homes in the times of social distancing are going to be looking at homes, yes, but they’re also going to be concerned about the economy and what implications that will have for the housing market, and, of course, what implications that will have for their prospective purchase. When you communicate with your buyers, you want to have the money talk, probably right up front. They’ll be scared. They’ll be uncertain. They’ll need reassurance that they’re making the right decision at the right time for the right amount of money. 

Talk mortgages. That’s a home buyer’s first worry anyway. Before they know if they can buy the home you’re buying, they need to know what they can afford–and if the market won’t collapse and we see another Great Recession. Your buyers will need some hand holding to help them get through this. That’s okay. Write articles in your newsletters about how you get a mortgage, about down payments, about interest rates, about the future of the market. This calm reassurance will get you far with your buyers right off the bat.

Step Two: Immerse Yourself in Technology

A savvy realtor will want to know every bit of technology that is available to them. You’re not going to be holding home shows and open houses and even standard walk-throughs for a while–maybe a long while. You need to know how you can give your buyers the feeling of walking through a home, getting a full picture of their future forever home, all while keeping everyone safe. Buyers aren’t going to want to be rubbing elbows with other buyers at an open house, but also home sellers aren’t going to want masses of possibly-infected buyers touring their houses at all hours of the day. That will require an onerous, constant sanitization effort that may turn sellers off to the whole process.

Some technologies you’ll want to turn to:

  • Virtual meetings: whether you hold your meetings with buyers on Zoom or FaceTime or some other platform, you want facetime, but you want to make sure that you’re not getting anyone sick. Screen sharing for meetings is a great way to build rapport with your buyers and help them through all the early stages and questions that new home buyers have.
  • Virtual home tours: A technology that had been a fun toy before the pandemic has become a must-have during coronavirus: virtual home tours. Using a software like Matterport will allow you to get a complete 3D rendering of the house, so your buyers can virtually “walk” through the home and see how everything goes together, how the rooms feel, how the experience of entering the kitchen is, how tight the hallways are. These virtual tours can completely replace a traditional walkthrough until your customer is down to the final decision and wants a final, “real” exploration of their home-to-be. 
  • Digital documents: This was also a trend that the real estate industry (and other industries) before COVID, but is growing rapidly since the coming of the disease–signing, initially, and processing documents digitally. There’s now no need to sign a document in person when secure, encrypted software exists that allows you to leave e-signatures on any contracts you need to sign.

Step Three: Establish Guidelines with Sellers

Your buyers are sooner or later going to want to see the inside of their home-to-be. But this will put strain on the sellers, and one showing after another–and all of the sanitizing that goes with it–will be physically and emotionally hard. Set up ground rules with your sellers that both you and they are comfortable with. Access to a home should be set to a minimum, but when you do access a home, know the guidelines:

  • Require all entrants to wear a facemask. Some people still balk at facemasks in public spaces, but this isn’t a public space–this is someone’s home, and they have to live there. The Centers for Disease Control currently recommends face masks, and you should take the proactive step to go one step further and require it. Most buyers will have their own, but if they don’t, it’s worth it to have a masks you can give them just to ease the pain of the mandate.
  • It may seem like a small thing, but it wouldn’t hurt to have foot coverings at the door so that your buyers aren’t tracking anything into the seller’s home. This will not only make clean up easier, but it gives peace of mind to everyone involved.
  • Gloves should be available. This is probably something that your buyers won’t have, because they’re not mandated or even recommended by the CDC for public spaces (because gloves are not meant to be reused and should be disposed of after each use) but if you’re respecting the seller, you’ll want to make their disinfecting job easier after the home showing, so they don’t have to spray down every single surface with bleach and alcohol. 
  • Provide a small trash can where gloves, masks, and foot coverings can all be disposed of when a buyer leaves a home, and then give them hand sanitizer to clean any leftover germs from their hands.

Step Four: Use Remote Online Notaries for Social Distance Closings

A new 2020 law allows for remote, digital notaries to complete real estate transactions digitally. The SECURE Notarization Act secures against fraud with a multi-factor authentication process, and real-time audiovisual technology so that notaries and signers can see each other in real time. The notary seal is generated and saved electronically.

This Act is currently in use in 23 states.

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