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Selling a Home During Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Saturday, May 2, 2020   /   by Dave Magua

Selling a Home During Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

You were planning to sell your home soon (or perhaps already had your house on the market) when the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S. and upended life as we know it. You aren’t alone. Many Americans across the country were gearing up for what was looking like a hot spring housing market, and now aren’t sure what to do: Move forward with caution? Give it a year? Wait and see?

If you’re wondering whether it’s still possible to sell a home during a pandemic, where to find information about your area, what to do if you encounter delays, and how to proceed without compromising you or your family’s health, then consult HomeLight’s list of seller FAQs about navigating this uncharted and fast-changing environment.

Can I still sell my house during the coronavirus pandemic?

It depends on where you live. Get in touch with a reputable real estate agent in your area to find out how local restrictions and closures are impacting the ability to buy and sell homes locally.

Under guidelines from the White House, Americans nationwide are practicing social distancing measures in order to mitigate the crisis and flatten the curve. Until further notice, people are to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people and to perform work and school obligations from home when possible. The majority of state governments are urging people to stay home except to grab necessities using “shelter in place” and “safer at home” directives as a matter of public health. Practically speaking, this adds extra logistical challenges to the selling process and may result in some hold-ups.

That said, real estate agents are quickly adapting by doubling down on virtual tours, digital closing tools, and remote client meetings. However, some state and local regulations have frozen all real estate services, while property inspections, title and escrow, and moving services may be on hold or delayed during this time. Ask your agent for the most up-to-date information as restrictions affecting real estate are shifting by the day and may vary from city to city.

Are real estate services allowed to operate in my state right now?

At the Federal level, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has declared “title search, notary, and recording services in support of mortgage and real estate services and transactions” as well as “residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services” essential. However, guidance from CISA is advisory in nature — it’s not a federal mandate. That means states, counties, and municipalities can create their own rules.

Of the states that have issued “shelter in place” directives of some kind, many have declared at least some real estate services as “essential” and therefore allowed to continue operating despite the directive, but a handful have not. Shelter in place orders generally require businesses that aren’t deemed “essential” to shut down their physical offices.

If you’re under some kind of shelter in place order and real estate has not been deemed essential in your city, county, or state, any services that cannot be done remotely will be on hold. As of April 3, 2020, 14 states have permanent laws allowing for Remote Online Notarizations (RON), while 12 have enacted emergency RON measures in response to the coronavirus, according to the National Notary Association (NNA). Elsewhere, closing a transaction still requires an in-person signing. Rules and guidance around online notarizations — such as which technology you need and whether notaries need to register — also vary across states. Check the NNA’s website for updates and to see where your state currently stands. You can see how there are a lot of variables in the mix here, so best to call up your agent and get their input.

If it’s feasible to sell my house, does that make it a good idea?

Selling your home now versus in a few months could be advantageous from a pricing perspective. We know that the market was hot before the coronavirus hit and that sellers may be able to still command a value reflective of the economic expansion that preceded this crisis. However, as tens of millions of Americans face losing their jobs, a recession is imminent or already taking shape.

Dave Magua, a top-selling real estate agent in Concord, New Hampshire shares her perspective: “I think it’s a good time to list your home because many sellers are deciding to wait, which makes it even more of a seller’s market due to lack of inventory. Despite all the upheaval in the market, there are still buyers looking to buy homes. These are real qualified buyers. In most cases, these houses are going under contract quickly, therefore showings will be limited.”

The best thing you can do is connect with a top local agent to find out what your options are and how the market’s faring in your neck of the woods. Their job is to provide you with the facts so you can determine what’s best for you.

Consult HomeLight’s guides on how to deep cleandeclutterdepersonalize, and stage your home (DIY-style) so you can virtually show your home at its best. If you aren’t comfortable with your agent or a photographer being in the home (or if such businesses have been shuttered where you live), ask your agent for tips on how to record your own video walkthrough and best practices for how to take listing photos with your iPhone.

Agents may be able to send your raw photos to a professional editing service for touch-ups. You can also talk to your agent about adding a 3-D or video walkthrough to your listing or holding a virtual open house using technology like Facebook Live or hosting a Facebook “watch party.”

What else can I do to reduce in-person showings?

Work with your agent to keep showings exclusive to serious, qualified buyers who’ve already done extensive research of your home using available resources. Require that any prospective buyers provide proof of funds or a mortgage pre-approval letter before allowing them to book a tour. Your agent can take measures to make sure a home is a good match for interested buyers by talking to them about traffic patterns and distance to the closest school or park to eliminate anyone who isn’t a good fit. Some agents are also conducting “preliminary” showings where a buyer comes to look at the street and exterior of the home before they schedule a tour of the inside.

What if I really don’t want anyone coming into my home?

Many buyers are going to want to see a home in-person before making an offer, even if it’s just once. However, it’s your house, and you can show it on your terms. If you want to stop in-person showings and see what your listing could generate virtually, work with your agent to express your request to halt showings in writing. Your agent, at that point, may opt to add an addendum to extend the listing knowing that it might take a bit longer to attract an offer, according to the National Association of Realtors.

If you need to sell your home right now and don’t want to run the risk of showing it amidst this health crisis, you can use HomeLight Simple Sale to get an offer this week from our network of cash buyers without any need for home showings.

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