Coronavirus and Real Estate – Strategies on Buying & Selling
FaceTime showings, 3D home models, remote closings, cleaning services, and more.
By now everyone has heard of coronavirus (COVID 19). Let me be the first to say I’m no expert on the virus, and this article isn’t intended to address the virus itself. There are hundreds of amazing scientists, healthcare professionals, and experts you should tune into for information on coronavirus. Painted Prairie Living is not one of them.
That said, here at Focus Real Estate we’ve been working on different strategies for helping our clients navigate the choppy waters with a focus on what we do best, which is help clients buy and sell real estate in Denver. While our hearts and minds are focused on helping our community, we also understand clients and friends need to buy and sell homes. And perhaps the more traditional Realtor approaches – open houses, yard signs, in-person showings, and so on – might not be the best approach for all buyers and sellers going-forward.
So what should we start thinking about when it comes to buying and selling homes in Denver in the age of coronavirus?
First, at Focus we’re looking at our current playbook for out-of-state buyers, health-sensitive sellers, and other sensitive clients and deals. This is just a place to start, and capture my thoughts today. As we collectively move forward we’ll need to re-think and re-calibrate our strategies and our thoughts.
1. Thinking about selling your home … but hesitant about too many showings?
If you’re interested in minimizing time on market and in-person showings, what we’ve learned over the years is you need incredible, comprehensive digital content that showcases your listing. Professional photographs are step #1.
The thesis behind 3D home models is simple. Listing photographs are great, but it’s difficult to understand size, scale, floorplan, and so many other details without a 3D model. A 3D model lets anyone “tour” your home digitally. (See THIS blog post regarding 3D home tours)
They can see the unique layout. They can literally “walk” through the home and, for example, see how far the laundry room is from the master bathroom. Or where the mudroom is relative to the family room. And so on.
In the past, I’ve seen that many buyers will still want to go see a home in person even if they aren’t in love with the 3D model – often as a “just in case.” However, in this new environment where buyers and sellers might want to limit social interaction if possible, 3D models could help give potential buyers a better feel for a home and as a result, showings will likely be more targeted, with more truly interested buyers scheduling showings.
In short, buyers who have very specific floorplan or other requirements will sort themselves in … or out … by exploring the 3D model, and sellers can focus on showings for truly interested buyers.
(Note: Focus offers free 3D home models to all clients. Retail price of a Matterport 3D model in Denver is typically $300-$600. Check out this Scoop article for more: The future of home photos is here! You can also check out another 3D model of one of our current listings here: 5222 Boston Street)
2. Virtual showings are here to stay
Another strategy for thinking about buying and selling homes while “social distancing” is part of the national discourse?
If you’re thinking about buying, instead of having your entire family visit dozens of homes around Denver, ask your Realtor about virtual showings.
Virtual showings have been around for years now. In case you’re not familiar, a virtual showing is when a Realtor video chats/FaceTimes with you and walks through a home.
We do this often for busy clients, or clients who live far away. The process is simple. I call my clients when I’m on the front porch, turn on FaceTime, put the phone in a gimbal (so the shot is steady), and walk through the home and answer questions.
I’ve done video chats live while clients are at work, and while they’re at home and the kids are napping.
And if a client isn’t available? We’ll video the home and upload the video to YouTube so the client can watch at their leisure
(Note: The aforementioned ideas do require permission from the listing agent/seller, and most are very accommodating).
Another video walk-through technology we’ve embraced are Facebook Live video tours of new listings. We’ve found a Facebook Live introduction to a new home is virtually a “must” for generating exposure and kicking off interest in a new home. If you follow the Stapleton Scoop, you may have seen one of the several dozen live videos our team has done (check out the view counts – you’ll see how effective they are). We also use Zillow walk-thrus and Instagram as well to grab those who aren’t active on local MLS searches.
In short, virtual showings and Facebook Live videos could (or should!) be part of your gameplan when navigating the buying and selling process in our new “social distancing” era.
3. Consider whether remote closings and e-signatures will work
A recent client of mine had a conundrum. She couldn’t attend the closing for her new home during regular business hours. How to handle?
Simple – we had a mobile notary go to the hospital, I sat down with the client and the notary,
and we signed and closed the transaction.
In another situation, a client’s childcare arrangements fell through so we had a notary meet the buyer at her home to sign and close.
Remote closings are yet another way to help minimize face-to-face contact, and – though I know everyone loves going to the title company to close a transaction – if doing away with one more trip and one more meeting is important to you, a remote closing is something you could consider.
Another new trend that could potentially help with “social distancing”?
All you lawyers out there have likely been closing transactions, whether M&A, commercial contracts, or otherwise, for years with e-signatures through Docusign, Echosign, or another e-signature platform. However, real estate closings have traditionally been via “wet signature,” meaning you sit down at a desk with a notary and sign the closing documents in ink at the title company.
Many real estate documents now are available for signature remotely, on your phone, via e-signature. We constantly push for e-signatures with title companies and lenders, and we’re hopeful the trend will continue, both for convenience and public safety. We’re waiting for some new info this week for how we may be able to move to fully to a virtual closing environment!
4. Smart phones are ubiquitous now, so use them!
Using phone, text, chat and other communication forms can help limit unnecessary social interaction
Texting … phone calls … Facebook Messenger … Instagram Direct … website chats … Slack … Google Hangouts … Skype …
Meeting your Realtor at Starbucks or at his/her office is no longer the only option. Here at Focus we’ve Skyped with international clients at 3 AM. I’ll sometimes trade hundreds of messages back and forth on Facebook Messenger with a client, because that’s their preferred form of communication.
Almost every day I’m texting with clients, and we’re constantly searching for new ways to connect digitally. Coronavirus, for better or worse, could push communication even more to online and digital platforms. Be sure to work with your realtor to understand if they’re good with off-hour text messages, or if they’re better face-to-face. If you prioritize
one form of communication in our new “social distancing” era, make sure you’re on the same page with your real estate team.
5. Cleaning services are a must
Consider asking for a deep clean in your offer
Let’s say you have a medical issue, or perhaps allergies. You need your new home clean – very clean. The good news is there are many local cleaning companies with excellent, detailed, and comprehensive cleaning solutions you might want to consider if you recently bought a new home.
For example, Stanley Steemer offers an in-duct air purifier service that can be added onto your whole house duct cleaning
(which I highly recommend). Whole house deep cleaning, carpet cleaning, tile/grout cleaning and sanitization are other favorites I often recommend to buyers.
Also, ask your Realtor to insert language into your offer for a particular home that requires the seller to professionally clean the home prior to closing. While many Colorado home purchase contracts will require a home to be sold in “broom clean” condition, this may not be enough. We’ve negotiated for additional cleaning requirements in contracts, and if that’s a priority for you, be sure your Realtor does the same. That will help ensure you get a clean, beautiful home at closing.
6. Why not move out of your house … and then allow showings?
If you’d like to skip showings altogether while you’re living in your home, consider a financing strategy that allows you to close on your new home prior to selling your current home. Financing arrangements tend to be lender and buyer specific, but as just one example of one of these programs, Matt Tenney and Joe Phillips recently sat down to chat about how you can buy your next home without selling first! (Note: If you want to go this route be sure to watch the Buyer FAQ Video we just recently created titled
“Do I have to Sell Before I can Buy My Next House?” which will walk you through the pros and cons of that strategy. You can find that video and more on our Buyer and Seller FAQ page.
Where do we go from here?
Open houses, yard sign, in-person showings, and other traditional ways of marketing and purchasing real estate are likely here to stay, regardless of what happens over the next few months with the coronavirus outbreak. That said, in the meantime we’re in a caution mode and we’re doing all we can to help prevent the spread of germs in our day to day business.
The main take away is right now is a great time to leverage the online tools we have in place to minimize person to person contact. 90%+ of homebuyers search for homes online now. For every 1 in-person home showing appointment, a home might get 2,000 MLS views, 1,000 Facebook Live video views, and 500 highly-engaging Matterport 3D home model views. (if we as brokers take advantage of the online tools available to us!) In short, your average seller’s and buyer’s ability to market, show, and ultimately purchase a home digitally – and with “social distancing” in mind – has never been easier.
Between emphasizing online communications, video platforms, and generally being conscientious about public safety and health (for example, Focus is bringing hand sanitizer to future open houses and will ask attendees to “scrub in” before and after touring the home), I’m optimistic we can find new ways to navigate these uncharted waters we’re faced with.
If you have other ideas on how we can help do our part please share them with us. For tips on how to manage the next few weeks with kids home from school, check out this blog post. And here are some free educational resources.