Navigating a transaction through COVID certainly can add additional steps to the process, but by adding a few items to your checklist, you will be able to best serve your client through this new normal.

To make sure homebuyers are both organized and informed, a real estate checklist is important for each step of the process. As we navigate business through the uncertainties of the coronavirus, this checklist must be adapted accordingly.

I’ve outlined three items to include in your buyer’s checklist to safely and efficiently assist your clients through every step of the homebuying process, in addition to tips for first-time buyers looking to navigate the process for the first time amid the pandemic.

Start with COVID safety measures

One of the most important steps of your homebuyer’s checklist should address the latest COVID-19 safety procedures and regulations according to your region. Make clients aware of new restrictions and COVID documents now required. These uncertain times, paired with the emotional transaction of a home purchase, make open communication and education crucial from the start.

Some items to consider on this checklist are health and safety regulations while touring potential properties, documentation required during each step of the home search, and any COVID legal language involved when working with their lawyer and closing on a property. Clients will appreciate your efforts to keep them updated on the ever-evolving procedures to conduct business safely and efficiently through these times.

Prepare for virtual showings

A must-have checklist item for our new normal is to provide touring options for your client other than attending the property physically. Present your clients with as much digital marketing information and materials as possible before offering to schedule a property tour in person.

Today, the quality of video, photography and virtual technology make it possible for clients to fully tour and experience a listing from their own home. Be sure to share marketing items with them in an organized and concise manner to make it as easy as possible for them to access.

As a next step, if the client wants to see more, offer a virtual tour through Facetime. If they are still interested after viewing both marketing materials and a virtual showing, set up an appointment for them to tour the property physically.

The new in-person showing

It is important to assess your risk when dealing with your client in person. Before meeting with them in person, be sure to ask if they feel ill or have traveled recently. Adding in-person COVID safety measures to your checklist will help manage many of the challenges involved with liaising with clients in person.

It is imperative that you check body temperatures, bring extra masks, sanitizing equipment and even foot-coverings to ensure both the current owners and your clients are all decreasing any risk of COVID infection while touring a property.

Must-dos for first-time homebuyers, COVID or no COVID

Determine the budget with your clients

If my clients are borrowing money, I made sure they get pre-approved before we even begin their dream home search. Let them know how it works, such as the fact that a lender will only offer them the amount that they can afford to pay monthly toward their mortgage.

By knowing how much they can afford to spend, you all can narrow the property search and guide them through properties that they realistically can afford.

Property specifications

Once your client is pre-approved, the next step is to list out all their must-haves when it comes to a home. I also ask clients to share their “dream” items that aren’t essential but would be nice to have. From a pool to a large garage, I like to keep these items in mind as I always aim to overdeliver for my clients while also keeping expectations realistic.

Do a second tour

After a property has been identified that they’d like to purchase, be sure to go back and do a deeper dive through the home. Explain to your clients that it is important to look at more than just the location and main features.

Walk your first-time buyer clients through and test the home’s plumbing and electrical systems, run the water, flip the switches in each room, and so on. When outside, look at the condition of the gutters, landscape, even the chimney if there is a fireplace.

Taking note of the condition can allow you to negotiate a better price. Look at more than just the location or features of the house when you view a home. If they’re in good condition, it can be reassured the property was well-taken care of.

Make an offer

Once a home has been identified, it is time to guide your clients through making and offer. It is your job as the agent to advise on the price of the offer, given your knowledge and their financials.

I recommend sharing comparable sales data and other local property values to emphasize what a reasonable offer is. I also help draw up an offer letter and submit it to the seller’s agent on their behalf.

Home appraisals and inspections

Once an agreement has been reached, it is time for the appraisal and inspection. Take time to explain the purpose of both of these steps. I always explain the process of the appraisal but also why it is important. Be sure to explain why mortgage lenders require appraisals, especially to know that they aren’t lending more money than the property is worth.

Additionally, for the inspection, explain to your clients that while an inspection isn’t always a requirement for a mortgage, I always recommend including a successful inspection contingency in your offer so that a potential list of items needing work can be presented to the seller before closing.

Navigating a transaction through COVID certainly can add additional steps to this process. The most important thing you can do for your clients, first and foremost, is to make health and safety a priority.

As new restrictions and rules are constantly evolving due to the pandemic, stay informed, and be sure to relay any and all new information that may affect your client in the process. By adding these three items to your checklist and communicating them with your client, you will be able to serve your client through this new normal.

Santiago Arana is a managing partner at The Agency, in Los Angeles. Connect with him on Instagram.

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