How Real Estate Is Changing During COVID-19

While deemed an ‘essential service’ in some states and not others, the reality is that Real Estate has had to find a way to adapt during this unprecedented time. The need for housing doesn’t stop just because a virus says it should and many people are finding themselves in a predicament where they have to enlist the help of Realtors, attorneys, mortgage brokers, home inspectors and others in order to buy or sell a house during this time. With a little creativity, Realtors and others have found ways to practice social distancing and limit the spread of Coronavirus, even while servicing their clients.

Communicating With An Agent
When it comes to buying a home, pairing up with the right agent is always key to finding your perfect property. But today, you need one who is tech-savvy and comfortable conducting meetings and business online. We are using Zoom for group consultations, online interviews, meetings and CMAs that would normally handled in person. FaceTime, text and good old-fashioned phone calls are also part of our daily communication. And although we’ve been using e-signature apps to send and receive documents digitally through email for a while now, it’s never been more important than in today’s world.

Virtual Home Tours & Online Sites
Crowded open houses with a plate of cookies for everyone to grab are a thing of the past — at least for now. Instead, everything is going online and there are several ways to virtually tour a home. Along with photos, many listings were already starting to incorporate videos or providing “hot spot” tours so you can tour the home, room by room, without physically stepping onto the property. In addition, many agents have posted floorplans, improvements and significantly more photos online to give buyers a better feel for the home. If in-person showings are allowed – as they are in Connecticut – the rules are stringent and agents, home sellers, and buyers must all be willing to make them happen. Given the risk, and if its absolutely necessary, it’s important a buyer have a good idea of what the property offers before even attempting to schedule an in-person showing.

Remote Mortgage Pre-Approval
Some lenders had already made the entire mortgage process digital long before social distancing was needed. And now, many more have jumped on board out of necessity. The first step is to get a recommendation, or interview a few loan officers over the phone or by video chat. Since mortgage interest rates are all over the map these days, it’s extremely important to shop around and compare what they’re offering — and make sure they’re comfortable conducting all steps of the transaction online. In order to get pre-approved for a loan, the lender will need to review your income, debt, credit history, and other factors, and you’ll need to submit paperwork verifying all of the above. Luckily, most of this paperwork should be available online.

Remote Home Inspections
We recently did a deal where the inspector offered the client a remote inspection. He inspected the house alone and reviewed the findings with them via a videoconference. At a remote home inspection, inspectors take a lot more pictures than they might have in the past so clients can get a good idea of where the issues are. Once the report is completed, the client participates in a video call to review every part of the report – just like an inspector would normally do in person.

Virtual Home Appraisals
Although we haven’t encountered this yet, home appraisals required by a lender are getting a virtual makeover. Appraisers are viewing the home via video or are participating in ‘desktop appraising,’ where they review available public and private data in order to value the home, including comparable property data, and produce a report. While these methods may not be to the penny in terms of value, they are relatively accurate and allow lenders to continue operating.

Remote Home Closings
In-person home closings — where all parties come together to sign contracts, swap keys, and shake hands—are, for the most part, not happening right now. However, most closings require some face-to-face interaction, since people have to sign documents and notaries need to stamp them in person. If the situation continues to develop, instead of buyers and sellers being in separate rooms and practicing social distancing with their attorneys as they do now, you may find “drive-through” closings happen or even secure video-conference closings depending on governmental regulations and oversight.

Adapted from a article Is It Safe To House Hunt During The Coronavirus Crisis? written by Margaret Heindenry