Required amenities and how buyers pinpoint, tour and purchase the homes they find desirable have changed significantly — and maybe permanently — this year. Here are some realities your first-timers need to be informed of early in the process. 

Price, condition, location, appearance and financing remain major drivers for homebuyers everywhere, but required amenities and how buyers pinpoint, “tour” and purchase the homes they find desirable have changed significantly — and maybe permanently — this year.

In response to COVID, home offices, more space, well-equipped kitchens, bigger backyards, workout rooms and even Zoom studios have moved onto the must-have list for many buyers. Sellers must also recognize that today’s buyers are not just OK with technology, but they also use it for everything.

Here are some realities your first-timers need to be informed of early in the process.

1. Sellers have to get real fast

Although selling can be very emotional for homeowners, today’s sellers must be willing to set their emotions aside and approach a home sale as the business transaction it is. If they’re in a slow market or natural disaster zone, taking a wait-and-see approach could be the smart move.

If they must sell as-is now, they will have to be aggressive on price in most markets. Even if their local market is hot and inventory is low, sellers still have to accommodate buyers’ needs, provide all the detailed information they demand online, and meet a set of ever-escalating expectations. Adopting a businesslike mindset is the only way to do that.

2. The speed of a sale may depend on how strategic the seller’s advance work is

Determining whether their insurance covers them adequately during a sale and fluffing up the property are just a couple of ways sellers can get a jump on the sales process, regardless of the timing.

With their agent’s guidance, sellers can do the homework required to understand what’s selling and what’s not, and create an informed prep list based on their research.

As their on-market date approaches, completing all seller disclosures and standard inspections — along with documenting completed repairs — benefits sellers as well as buyers. Having recent inspection reports in the disclosure package can lower buyers’ anxiety levels and allow shorter inspection periods to be negotiated.

They decrease the likelihood of inspection surprises derailing a sale, and they give sellers an opportunity to get bids for addressing important issues rather than paying for last-minute repairs or making painful price concessions.

3. Sanitizing is huge

It’s not uncommon for state and local governments to demand homesellers or agents provide sanitizing stations at entries and throughout the house; offer masks, shoe covers and gloves to visitors; and handle post-showing clean-ups.

Make sure sellers understand that lowering buyers’ anxiety levels by vigorously addressing personal protection issues helps sell the property.

4. Moving out is a viable marketing tactic

One of the fundamental rules of marketing is to make it easy for people to do what you want them to do. So, when we’re selling houses, making it easy for prospective buyers to see them both online and in person is essential.

Having properties vacant makes onsite tours far easier and safer. If that’s not feasible, having sellers vacate the property for staging and the first week or two of showings is the next best strategy. Granted, that means no one is on-site to do post-showing cleanings. But having professional cleaners on call to do post-tour wipe-downs is a solid, economical alternative.

5. Online impact is the curb appeal of 2020

Many of us no longer even have the option of holding open houses. Even where we do, increasing numbers of buyers are doing all their initial house-hunting online.

So, excellent photography and meaningful virtual tours have become essential elements of our marketing programs. If the house looks cramped and dingy online, that poor first impression will limit the property’s appeal dramatically. And it won’t get foot traffic — whether you’re holding open houses or not.

6. Staging is essential now

Because appearance is everything for people viewing properties online, staging homes prior to photographing and posting listings has become even more crucial. If you haven’t already done it, now’s the time to ask your stager to help you assemble comps to demonstrate how staging generates higher prices and lowers time on the market.

It’s also much cheaper than having to reduce the price to move a house that looks dated and dreary online and off. Staging is unmatched for its ability to maximize any home’s good features and create desired “features” out of scraps of unused space — like transforming a tiny fourth bedroom into a spacious, functional office. It’s the rare seller who can afford not to stage these days.

7. Sellers can expect offers to include ‘force majeure’ clauses

Agents have typically gone over listing agreements with sellers before taking new listings, but we haven’t generally reviewed purchase contracts with sellers until we had one in hand. That needs to change.

Today’s purchase agreements often include addenda outlining the ways COVID may affect contingency periods, appraisals, loan approvals and even the terms of the contract itself. Your sellers will benefit from reviewing what happens in a variety of circumstances that are beyond anyone’s control.

Our “new” COVID-plagued world continues to see high demand for properties as prospective buyers alter the ways and places they want to live, and all of us involved in selling properties strive to meet their newfound needs.

Buyers are signing documents electronically or, conversely, doing it in person at tables erected in parking lots outside their escrow officers’ brick-and-mortar space. Inspectors and appraisers are struggling to keep up with demand at a time when working faster is no longer possible. And as Realtors, we’re also doing our best in changing, challenging times.

Fortunately, that’s what we’ve basically always done. So, most of us are pretty good at it by now. You just have to remember that what’s normal for us now is all new to sellers — especially the first-timers. So, stock up on facts and patience. In fact, maybe get a little extra patience. You’re gonna need that.

Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.

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