We wanted to share some insights with you in handeling Real Estate...now, specifically buying and selling a home during the challenging times we are currently facing with the global Coronavirus outbreak.First and foremost, we want to give thanks to the brave men and women who are out on the front line; our first responders, healthcare workers, medical personnel and support providers. Secondly, we ask all to practice safety and social distancing during this national emergency.
This is part of an on-going series of real estate articles by Nick Santoro and Joe Santoro of Personal Property Managers ( www.personalpropertymanagers.com ) who service Pennsylvania and New Jersey and specialize in real estate, home content downsizing, senior transition services, property management and estate sales.
So, what do you do if you are trying to sell a home or would like to buy a home now...in the middle of a national emergency?
We would like to share some tips and insights with you to help better understand the Real Estate market and the process in these most unusual times.
So, let’s take a look at the facts, which are very important in determining a game plan for Real Estate whether you are buying or selling a home now, in these most troubling and confusing of times.
At the time of the writing of this article, just about 9 weeks into the COVID-19 / Corona Virus shutdown, we have seen over 40 million people laid off and file for unemployment in the US. This is a staggering number, with 1 in 5 Americans either furloughed or permanently laid off. We have seen unemployment go from statistically full at 3.5% to 15% which is the highest since the Great Depression. It is project that unemployment will reach 20%.
We have seen 5.8 million people test positive world wide with the virus, and in the United States we have had over 1.8 million American infected. We have seen over 360,000 deaths world wide with over 100,000 deaths in the US. To put this in perspective, the amount of fatalities in the US from the virus is well more than the total deaths in the Vietnam war and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined.
What does this mean for Real Estate in the United States?
We have seen listings drop over 70% during this time. Therefore, available housing inventory is lower. We have seen transactions that are under contract drop 80%. Over two thirds of all sales in our area are now under $400,000.
What does this all mean? It means that the market has shifted from a sellers’ market to a buyers’ market, with the advantage now to buyers. Why? Because there are fewer buyers because of the ecomomy and consumer confidence is low due to the uncertainty and the job market.
People always need a place to live and thus, Real Estate transactions are classified as essential services in most areas. Of course, all activities during this time are dynamic, fluid and ever changing, so check your local state guidelines for more information on what is permitted or not in the way of visiting properties and stay at home and social distancing mandates.
The first thing we all need to do is practice social distancing. This is very important. Safety has to be our number one priority.
With social distancing in place, for sellers, it will be important to update your pictures posted on line, and if possible work with your Realtor to video your home for viewing as a virtual tour. During this time more and more people will be shopping and viewing properties from their computer or smart phone. Creativity and imagination is important during this time. Keep this in mind, especially if you are a seller. We recommend that you pre-plan all video tours before you start filming them so that you can show your home in the best possible light with it clean and decluttered giving it an updated feel and one that a potential buyer will not have to put a lot of money or time into as they transition into your home.
Open houses are no longer permitted for obvious reasons, so pictures and videos will play and even more important role, now more than ever to give prospective buyers a better feel for the listed property. This is a time when more pictures and video is better.
Unlike traditional home previews and showings, we have found that homes that are completely empty, where the sellers have moved out already, seem to be highly desirable for todays buyers. This goes against past practices with recommendations for home staging and is a sign of the times we are in. This is true for several reasons. The first is that with the house empty, there may be less risk for germs which are top of mind today. The second reasons is that a buyer may be able to move their family in immediately.
Buyer home visits are permitted on an area by area basis, but should be kept to an absolute minimum. We recommend that separate cars be taken when driving out to view the property; agent in one car and buyers in the other car. Practice social distancing. We also recommend that you wear gloves and masks for even more protection. We recommend that the sellers not be in the home and to leave about a half an hour before all buyer appointments. We recommend that sellers clean and disinfect everywhere possible before and after a showing, such as door knobs, surfaces, counters, light switches, faucets and even the lock box. We recommend that you wash your hands often.
We suggest that sellers turn on all lights and open closets and doors prior to a buyer visit, again to eliminate or reduce the need for others to touch things in your home.
We recommend that buyers only bring a minimal amount of family members or friends with them when looking at a house, again being mindful of local distancing and safety guidelines.
For buyers, please understand that your agent may not wish to be right next to you touring the house room by room, and may in fact wish to wait in the car, as all are parties are encouraged to practice social distancing.
We even recommend the agents FaceTime or do Zoom video tours with buyer clients if pictures, video and virtual tours are not published or just do not provide enough information or property views to assist a buyer in their evaluation.
Tips for home Sellers:
What about settling a property during this time of national emergency?
We want to stress again, that we are all experiencing something unknown in our nation’s history, so all current guidelines (national, state and local) are changing and are being updated on a daily basis, with the priority on safety, caution and saving lives. So, with this said, many things that were requirements in a settlement such as Certificates of Occupancy and Smoke Certifications are now being done on an honor system because many offices are closed. But be sure that when this national crisis ends, local governments will be spot checking settlements done during this time to verify that all safety requirements are met and that people who said these elements were satisfied were actually met. If they find that there was false information provided, or safety elements such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers or hand railings that were not actually done, then severe fines and penalties will be imposed. Everyone is doing the best that they can during this time. Honesty, good faith, safety, common sense and social distancing must be the responsibility of everyone.Lastly, many settlement elements can be done remotely with wire transfers, electronic signatures and FaceTime, so whenever and wherever possible utilize these tools.
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For more information on real estate or home downsizing please contact Nick Santoro or Joe Santoro of Personal Property Managers at 215-485-9272 or 908-368-1909. Personal Property Managers specializes in helping home owners transition from their home of many years into a new community. Personal Property Managers services Pennsylvania and New Jersey and offers downsizing services, estate sales services, home staging, discount full service real estate services via its association with EveryHome Realty. Learn more about Personal Property Managers from our recent News Stories.