How the Home Buying and Selling Process Has Changed During COVID-19
How the Home Buying and Selling Process Has Changed During COVID-19

How the Home Buying and Selling Process Has Changed During COVID-19

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Summer is usually a busy season for home buying and selling, but in this season of the coronavirus, it’s anything but typical.

As states are in various staging of opening up, sellers are dealing with new procedures with putting their homes up for sale and buyers are working hard to thoroughly search while still practicing social distancing.

I’ve found myself in the middle of this as I’m helping my mom this summer. She’s looking to retire in a few years and wants to be closer to the grandkids.

She’s already found work here in Raleigh and now during summer break, she’s selling her house and hunting for a place.

Being a Smart Home Buyer or Seller During This Pandemic

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home during the pandemic, you need to be extra prepared and willing to adjust as needed.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Louis Guillama, VP of Real Estate Operations at Coastal Credit Union a few times to get his take on what it takes to be successful with buying and selling.

Here are some ways my mom and I have adapted. I hope they help you get a great deal while still practicing social distancing.

Selling Your House

Every seller I know wants to get the most out of their house when they list it. With the pandemic, it can be a real challenge.

However, there are some crucial things you can do to really make your house shine.

Create buzz for your house with incredible pictures and videos. Great photos will help you sell in any season, but are especially more important now. Photographs were a wonderful way to attract interested buyers for a tour, but in some cases where restrictions are strict, they are the tour!

Some tips to make your house looks its best for photos include:

  • Stage your home. Make it easy for buyers to fall in love with your home by taking the time to define and decorate your space.
  • Declutter and depersonalize your space. You want your buyers to imagine that this is their home, so pack away your photos, certificates, and other personal stuff for your next place.
  • Take photos with natural light. If possible, choose a sunny day to take pictures as it can make your house look more inviting.
  • Shoot from the corner of the room. You can highlight rooms better based on where you stand. The ‘directly in front’ method isn’t usually the way to go. Instead, tuck yourself into the corner so you can get a wide shot of the space.

Video is practically a must now as there are potential buyers who have health conditions. Being able to see your home online allows you to cast a wider net. Many agents today are able to create a video based on your photos.

If this all seems overwhelming, then you may want to talk to your agent and ask for a referral. They may know someone with experience who can showcase your home perfectly!

Pictures are wonderful, but there are still some other key pieces you want to watch.

Be objective in your pricing. One huge mistake sellers typically make is mixing up sentimental value with market value. Sit down with your agent and review comparable sales so you can get a clear idea of the best price to list it.

You also have to be mindful if the market has shifted in your area. Hard hit cities may become buyer’s markets now.

Be prepared to go virtual with closing. The closing process has changed to accommodate the social distancing requirement. My mom had a choice of signing at home with digital documents or meeting up at an office.

Buying a House During the Pandemic

Buying a house under normal conditions can be stressful under normal conditions, with a pandemic, you can understandably be anxious. Preparing for your house hunt can make it more enjoyable.

According to Louis Guillama, VP of Real Estate Operations at Coastal Credit Union, snagging a great deal when buying a house requires doing some key legwork.

Run your own numbers. Yes, this is especially true when you’re the buyer. Some lenders will approve you for a loan higher than you can comfortably carry. When you consider other goals -like saving for retirement, taking care of kids, and yes, vacations  – you want to be conservative with your finances.

While 30% of your income is given as a guideline, you may want to use 25% of your net income as a better guide so you can have a good financial buffer in your budget.

Nail down your need and wish list. Now is not the time to tour every single house that comes on the market. You have to be strategic about the houses you visit, so sit down and define what you absolutely need and what would be nice to have.

For my mom, she was adamant getting a house with about 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and that was 15 mins or less from her job and where we live.

She was flexible on the yard size and the town she was in (there are several great ones around Raleigh).  With that information and her budget, we’ve been able to weed out many homes and focused on one that she would absolutely love.

Being a Savvy House Hunter

Adding a layer or two of stress, besides being out of town, my mom also has an underlying medical condition.

To assist, I volunteered to do the actual tours with her real estate agent. If you don’t have someone to go to the in-person visits for you, you’ can still work with your agent and have a successful house hunt.

First off, go through the virtual tour of any home you’re interested in. This will allow you to get a general feel of the layout and whether or not it’ll work for you.

You’ll also want to comb through the photos to see which areas you need to check out further. Are there any signs of damage like cracks, stains, or are certain rooms missing? Either can be a sign of trouble. You can then have your agent call you through video and go through those details.

Don’t be an HGTV kind of buyer, where you focus on things like paint and decor. Instead, Louis advised that you hone in on key systems like electrical, HVAC, and plumbing. You don’t want to get hit with a big repair after you buy your house.

Speaking of home tours and taking a careful look, please make sure you protect yourself. While some areas have restrictions on visits, that doesn’t mean it’s enforced.

In one house I looked at, the agent and I were alone to inspect while the next interested buyers were outside waiting. Another house had us make an appointment as well, but halfway through our tour, several other buyers and agents were in and around the property.

Since part of the in-person tours involves checking around appliances, cabinets, switches, and so forth, you want to bring gloves and a mask.

During your tours, make sure you check the neighborhood as well. When you have neighbors who are taking care of their property it can give you more confidence about your choice.

Speaking of neighborhoods, if you’re looking for a great deal, don’t limit yourself to only the popular neighborhoods (which can be overpriced). Instead, dig for the hidden gems in your city or town.

Stay Safe!

I hope these tips not only help you sell and buy a house during these unprecedented times but also give you ideas on how to stay safe!

I’d love to get your take – how have you adjusted with buying and selling your home?

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Elle Martinez
Elle Martinez

Written by Elle Martinez

Elle helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second. More from Elle Martinez

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