“Do you have any place to go so that we can show your home and represent that you have not been in the home for two weeks?”
“Have you or anyone that has been in the home, or anyone exposed to anyone in the home, been sick in your proximity in the past two months?”
These are just some of the new questions that Paul Benson, licensed partner and global real estate advisor with Engel & Völkers in Park City, Utah, has had to ask his clients recently.
Another popular one his buyers have prompted is, “Can your house live ‘off the grid?'”
These are not questions that have historically been included in agents’ back pockets for seller and buyer encounters, but in the new uncertain world we live in with COVID-19, they’re likely to become prevalent.
In general, it seems like clients are more than happy to comply with such requests, and understand the desire on both sides for caution.
“Honestly, people get it,” Benson told Inman in an email. “I have never seen sellers more open to change and doing what is needed. Even though inventory is down and prices are holding, sellers and buyers seem more apt for change than we Realtors, frankly.”
Even though her team thoroughly cleans a home before and after showing it to anyone, Sandi Duval, broker for Duval Team Real Estate in Concord, New Hampshire, said she’s been asking sellers to clean homes again after her team leaves, just to be extra careful.
Nevertheless, sellers still have questions and concerns about sanitation.
“What are people going to touch when they are in my home?” is a question Duval received recently that she said she hasn’t previously heard in her nearly 40 years as a Realtor.
At the urging of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors, the Duval Team is also requiring that buyers submit a pre-approval letter to the seller before even looking at a property.
“Before we could be a little more relaxed [with] people,” Duval said “But now, it’s like a requirement.”
“Buyers are joyful when they’re looking,” Duval said. “And it’s just really hard now to try and tell people to put the brakes on.”
Some sellers are looking to avoid the sanitization process altogether by keeping people out of their homes, but are still wondering if anyone will actually buy a home without seeing it in person.
“Owners are [asking], ‘Do you really think we can list our apartment with no access when we don’t want people in our home? Can we do it with a video?'” Vickey Barron, broker with Compass in New York City, told Inman.
Barron said she’s getting non-stop calls from clients who are constantly wondering what to do as things change daily, to the extent that she needs to charge her phone twice per day.
Andrew Fortune, Realtor and owner of Great Colorado Homes in Colorado Springs (a city that has recently started allowing agents to show homes in-person again), said he has a seller who is requiring 24-hour notice before all showings. In addition, all potential buyers of this seller must answer a set of questions demonstrating their seriousness to buy, as well as their willingness to practice all potential sanitary measures while entering the home for a viewing.
“Most listings are not doing this here,” Fortune noted. “I listed their home in the first week of March and we were under contract in one day. The deal fell through because the buyer was in California and could not get here to see the home in-person. Now we are back on the market and have only had one showing in four days. These new requirements make our listing less appealing.”
Other real estate agents are striving to be extra informative about properties since more and more potential buyers would rather not set foot in a house now before making a decision to buy.
Jenn Smira, Realtor and executive vice president of the Jenn Smira Team at Compass in Washington, D.C., said she’s thoroughly going through listings with her clients and even her client’s potential buyers to be sure they understand the scope of a home’s square footage, are aware if it doesn’t include a parking space and other features that might slip by someone’s eye.
“Let’s address some of these things upfront,” Smira said. “You’re just trying to be more proactive. There’s just a real sense of cooperation.”
“We basically need to eliminate the surprise factor after they move in,” Ghassan Mehdi, co-founder and partner of Boston Homes Real Estate, a team that focuses on investment properties, condominiums and leasing apartments in Boston, Massachusetts, told Inman.
Highlighting any of a property’s shortcomings is no easy task, but Mehdi said it especially needs to be done now.
“We need to be their eyes on the ground when they cannot visit and this is very difficult,” Mehdi said. “You have to somehow bring the negative before the positive.”
Mehdi’s team has been asking prospective tenants to contact current tenants to be sure they receive a first-hand account of what it’s like to live in a property.
“The problem is not what they’re looking for,” Mehdi said. “The problems are what they don’t know that they will discover after they go in.”
With face masks and gloves concealing facial expressions and gesticulations, Duval said one of the toughest parts of personal communication has been not being able to clearly read a client’s emotions.
“It’s just so different for us right now,” Duval added. “It will change everything about our business forever.”