Old-fashioned technology and creativity are helping agents, buyers and sellers comply with COVID-19’s health and safety measures while making their deals.
- Some buyers are walking around homes virtually.
- Others visit in person while staying at least 6 feet away from their agent.
- Sellers are conducting Open Houses on Facebook Live.
- Appraisers are doing in-car valuations.
- Buyers are watching the inspections by video call.
- Masked and gloved notaries are getting signatures on the doorstep.
We’ve had to make some adjustments, for sure, say most realtors. Everyone is trying to minimize face-to-face interactions. There have been some delays, but mostly, deals are being made, with a few tweaks.
What does selling homes during the pandemic look like?
Rules about face-to-face displays vary by city, county, and state. Some allow them and some prohibit them. Check with each state, county, and local government for the latest information on business closings and closing rules for each.
Agents have been making home visits through FaceTime and similar tools for years. These platforms have proven invaluable for selling homes during the pandemic, however. Real estate sites are reporting an increase in the creation of 3D home tours. Requests for video home tours in March and April 2020 increased by more than 500% over any pre-pandemic period.
Many agents say they are surprised because they had never closed a deal on a house that buyers had only seen on video.
Where in-person visits are allowed, agents clean door handles, spray everything with disinfectant, and open the house, the closets, all for one client. Lights are left on so no one touches the switches, and no one touches the cabinets or doors during visits.
Visitor safety guidelines
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR), responsible for HouseLogic (a free source of information and tools for homeowners), recommends that:
- Only one buyer should enter a house at a time, with 2 meters distance between each guest.
- Agents wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when potential buyers go through the door.
- Shoes should be removed.
- Children should not be present at displays.
“We’re living in extraordinary times and unusual circumstances. If you have the ability to work, you have to be creative,” Mabel Guzman, a Chicago real estate agent, told NBC News (National Broadcasting Company). Guzman (who was the 2020 Vice President of Association Affairs of the National Association of REALTORS®) has posted a video that offers tips called A Strategy for Virtual Showings During COVID-19.
Get down with payment assistance
Many organizations that offer down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers have temporarily suspended their programs or changed the rules.
Live video inspections
Inspectors usually work alone now, with no buyers around, and use hand sanitizers and alcohol wipes. The National Association of Home Inspectors advises inspectors to videotape their inspection so customers can watch it at home later, or to use FaceTime or other live video conferencing applications to take their customers to the inspection, virtually. They can also call clients with their findings after they are done.
The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) has also issued guidelines for inspectors to keep themselves and homeowners safe while providing an accurate assessment of a home’s condition.
Mortgage Rates and Closings
As mortgage rates fluctuate quickly and closing times take longer than usual, some lenders are extending mortgage rate lock-in periods. You can get a good rate and keep it even if your lender takes longer than usual to process your loan.
However, the protocol depends on the lender and the loan. Some lenders offer this for all loans; others for refinancing. Check with your lender about their policy.
How do you get financing for your home?
An important step in getting a mortgage is proving that the borrower has a job. Before the virus, lenders would call the borrower’s employer for verbal verification.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency – which oversees Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association), Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation), and the Federal Home Loan Banks – has relaxed the rules for federally-backed loans because many businesses are closed.
Lenders of federally-backed loans now accept an email from an employer, a recent paycheck stub, or a bank statement showing a recent payroll deposit as proof of employment.
Selling homes during the pandemic means that real estate agents can take the final video tour with their clients. Otherwise, they can open the house and buyers can explore the place alone. Many agents still prefer to accompany their clients, but stay 6 feet away and have them wash their hands when entering and leaving the house. They all wear masks, too.
And, of course, when buyers move in, they must disinfect the place.
Remote notarization: depends on where you live
About half of the states have permanent Internet certification policies. These allow a notary and a signatory in different locations to sign an electronic document, usually through the use of video applications such as Zoom or FaceTime. Notaries will see you sign paperwork or carry out an electronic signature on an electronic document through a camera.
Some states have implemented temporary rules that allow Remote Online Notarization (RON). The number of states that allow remote notarization may grow as federal and state pandemic legislation is extended.
The traditional closings, where everyone gathered around a big table to sign the final papers, are no longer possible. Title companies and banks are getting super creative in dealing with limitations.
One Minnesota company, Legacy Title, launched a self-service closing service in one of its offices in a former bank branch building. The title company’s representative sits at a bank window and handles the closing papers while the customer sits in their car. Legacy completed 14 closings in the first week it offered self-service.
Then there are the car closings, where the entire transaction takes place in cars. Masked and gloved notaries meet with buyers in parking lots and pass documents through car windows.
“I had a closing on Tuesday where the buyer sat in her car the whole time. The attorney came out to her car, gave her paperwork, had her sign in her car, and my buyer never got out of her car,” agent Isaac McDow told WBRC television (We’re the Bell Radio Company).
Georgia-based agent Henson says “I’ve had closings the last three weeks [that] I’ve been asked not to attend. There was one where the seller signed two days before [the] buyer. Then the seller came back two days later and signed.”
Henson, who is also licensed in New York, has had to extend the closing dates of two sales there since then. Credit Union Boards won’t let non-residents into the buildings – not even an electrician who needs to make repairs as part of an inspection issue. He left the closing with an open date.
“It’s all about being really flexible right now,” he says.
Quick N Easy tip: Find out if the registration office in the county where you want to sell can complete the deal online.
Should you sell?
Quick N Easy Offers is not only a great source of information about selling homes during the pandemic but we will also make you a great offer, should you decide to sell.