My wife Linda and I live in Fairfield County, Connecticut — one of the “hot spots” for COVID-19. We are under lockdown, but real estate is one of those “essential services” that we need to perform.
Many customers are fleeing the cities to suburbs like Fairfield County, the Hamptons on Long Island or the Jersey shore, all in search for rentals or vacant properties that allow for easier social distancing and isolation. They’re also looking in areas where hospitals still have beds.
All to say, there are situations where listing and showing properties becomes necessary, and knowing how to handle the process correctly in times like this is important. Here are some tips from the Connecticut Association of Realtors (CTR), as well as agents who are still out there in the field. If you’re operating in a coronavirus hot spot, these notes will come in handy.
Buyers and renters are now familiar with online searches, so that’s the easy part.
The CTR suggests listing agents can:
- Host a virtual tour or private virtual showing using Skype or Facebook.
- Help the client conduct a “live” virtual tour.
- Use virtual staging to showcase a property.
- Provide video tours.
- Do video check-ins.
The CTR also suggests for you to:
- Take pictures using your own camera or cell phone.
- Ask clients to take pictures using their cameras or cell phones.
- Order an upgraded camera to improve the quality of your photos and tours.
- Depending on copyright, use prior pictures taken or owned by the seller, or ask permission of the photo owner.
When trying to set up showings, the various parties have new concerns. Listing brokers and sellers/landlords want to know if the buyers/tenants and their agent have been tested. If so, were they positive?
The buyers/tenants and their agent have the same concerns. And so, everyone needs to share their status. Enter a new full disclosure from all to all.
During this time, there are many changes made the to the showing protocol. Here’s what these changes might look like.
- Some well-prepared buyer/tenant agents are informing listing agents that their clients would arrive with nitrile gloves on their hands, booties to put on their shoes and masks for their faces. They would be instructed not to touch anything. If they do come into contact with anything, the area will be disinfected immediately.
- Listing agents are being asked to prepare the home for showings by entering beforehand with gloves, masks and a spray bottle of alcohol. They can turn on the lights and open doors so the buyer or tenant doesn’t have to touch them. Agents are also asked to move any furniture and boxes in the way of essential items a buyer should know about, like the electrical box or the boiler room.
- Listing agents can then leave or wait in their car.
- Buyer/tenant agents and their clients arrive in separate cars and stay socially distanced upon arrival.
- If the listing agent has not already opened the door, the buyer agent dons nitrile gloves, proceeds to the front door and uses the key box to open it.
- The listing agent and buyer agent wait in their cars as the buyer/tenant enters unaccompanied. The agent meanwhile removes the gloves safely and disinfects hands with the alcohol spray. They’ll have to make sure that they remove and dispose their gloves using the CDC’s step-by-step guide to avoid further contamination.
- Why not accompany the buyer/tenant? Because at this point, it’s simply not known whether the virus is in the air within the house or not. Plus, agents are finding that buyers/tenants don’t mind being able to roam around by themselves.
- When the client emerges outside, the buyer/tenant agent talks to them while practicing social distancing. They get their feedback and concerns, and write a list of questions for the listing agent. The buyer/tenant agent also shows the client how to take off gloves.
- The buyer/tenant agent or listing agent now go back and lock the door by putting on another pair of her nitrile gloves, locking up and then disposing their gloves safely again.
Home inspectors are developing their own set of requests. One home inspector asked that all furniture be moved away from anything he needed to access so he would not touch anything, or at least as few things as possible.
Another inspector I spoke with said he didn’t want anyone in the house. That caused another set of issues due to home-schooling. The seller asked for the inspector to come after 3 p.m. when the three children in the house were done home-schooling. However, he wanted to come when there was more sunlight.
They compromised on 2 p.m. He would do the basement and exterior first. Then the children would leave the second floor at 3 p.m., and he would be alone to inspect the rest of the house.
Open the door for them, and wait for them to finish and lock up. No need to be inside with them.
It’s our job to make sure contractual obligations are met, so we do have to do a final walk-through. Fortunately, they mostly occur on the day of closing when everyone has moved out. Use booties, gloves, a mask and spray when entering.
Closing dates need greater flexibility. With many municipal offices closed or operating during restricted hours, lawyers or closing agents are less certain of how quickly they can get municipal documents.
This is especially important if the seller has done extensive renovations to a property, and liens and refinancing documents need to be checked. Check with your state or local association to see what notices or addenda are needed for listing agreements and contracts for purchase.
And so, selling real estate goes on — albeit under altered circumstances. It’s in times like these that we can all be grateful that so much of selling real estate has moved online and onto apps.
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