Last month, I told you about roller coaster real estate sales in 2020. Our area showed strength and resiliency that seemed unimaginable after the first six months of the year. Other areas did not fare as well due to longer lockdowns and more restrictions. So far, 2021 seems to be on a more even keel; however, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. It’s critical to understand the pandemic’s impact on real estate, from simply touring a home to the ability to close transactions.
Whether you are new to home ownership, or have been a homeowner for years, this is an unprecedented time. So, what do you need to know as a buyer and as a seller?
What buyers need to know:
In–person showing and open houses – Last spring, showings of homes had to be virtual. As of late May, agents are allowed to show properties that are unoccupied or vacant at the time of the showing to one set of buyers at a time. Similarly, for open houses, only one party and the agent should be in the property at a time, with everyone wearing masks and, if possible, gloved. It is advisable that buyers take extra precautions, such as removing shoes, using hand sanitizer, and refraining from touching items in the home.
Many agents have offered virtual tours of homes through pre-recorded videos or live video streams. In fact, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) on the pandemic’s impact on real estate, three in five Realtors said they are guiding buyers through virtual home tours.
Interest rates are low – While new social distancing measures change how buyers view potential homes, interest rates are near all-time lows and home prices are holding steady. Potential buyers can prepare for homeownership by understanding their budget, building a good credit history, and getting prequalified for a mortgage. Some lenders even allow borrowers to lock in interest rates for limited time periods.
Don’t expect a discount – Nationally, home prices are holding steady, with the majority the same or higher from one year ago, according to NAR. Our area is similar with the 2020 median price for all housing types rising 3 to 7 percent over 2019. Also, supply is limited.
Expect delays – Those terminating a lease or selling a home and buying a new one should leave some wiggle room, even an extra month or two, between moving out of the old dwelling and into a new home in case of an unexpected delay. Hiring moving crews may prove challenging, so buyers should give movers as much notice as possible ahead of their scheduled move.
What sellers need to know:
Showing and marketing homes during a time of social distancing may seem difficult, but a new wave of tech tools is helping streamline the remote transaction process as buyers continue home searches online.
Tech tools can help market and show your home – While in-person showings may be inadvisable at times, many digital tools are available to help continue marketing and showing your home. A Realtor can help coordinate three-dimensional interactive property scans, virtual tours (either pre-recorded or live), on–demand open houses, and virtual staging to showcase your property. If sellers receive an offer on the home, their Realtor has the ability to present it to them virtually, as well.
Take steps to protect yourself – “Sight unseen” purchases are not a new phenomenon, but this pandemic has certainly increased their prevalence. Sellers may want to include language in the purchase agreement that ensures buyers acknowledge that they are responsible for personal verification, walkthroughs, and professional inspections to confirm that the property meets their needs.
Buyers are still searching – Just because they’re not touring homes in–person doesn’t mean buyers aren’t continuing their search. As a result, nearly three out of every four Realtors say sellers have not lowered prices to attract buyers during the pandemic. As potential buyers increasingly browse homes online, having attractive and accurate photos and videos is even more important. Sellers may want to consider using this extra time at home to make updates around their home and take fresh pictures of those improvements.
While the situation seems to have stabilized in our area, buyers and sellers should be aware of changing conditions. Our associations continue to update our members on the latest guidance and advice to allow real estate transactions to continue.
The April issue of NNY Business will be focused on real estate and the housing market. Pick up your copy at the Watertown Daily Times for more real estate tips and local market information.