Is It Safe to List My Home During COVID?
We’re all glad to see 2020 in the rear view mirror. It’s been a year unlike any other for everyone, me included. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have escaped many of the negative impacts, and oddly enough, real estate was almost easier in 2020. Without the ability for open houses, I ended up having Sundays to myself for the first time in decades. Listings sold quickly and easily because of market conditions. And as always, I loved seeing so many first-time buyers fulfil their dream of owning their own home. Regardless of the selling price, I was able to give all my clients the same level of service, whether it was a $200,000 sale or $1 million. I started mentoring an associate, grew my team with the addition of a new agent and earned the RE/MAX Chairman’s Club Award for sales.
In my personal life, I was so proud to have been awarded damages in my cyber-bullying case. Both of my kids are doing well; Xander entered French Immersion and Jocelyn is in her third year at SMU for a degree in chemistry. Being single for more than a year has given me the time and space to become much more comfortable with myself and in my own skin. More time at home has allowed me to plan and complete some minor renovations, and I finally got the coffee maker I’ve wanted for 15 years!
Buying and Selling Hasn't Stopped
But no matter what, it’s impossible to ignore the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on our lives. The need to buy and sell homes hasn’t stopped and, due to the current market conditions, this is an optimal time to list. Like other industries, we’ve had to adapt, so let’s talk about the ways that I, as a realtor, can keep you and your family safe as you buy or sell a home.
The initial buyer’s consultation meeting is when we sit down to discuss your needs and develop a list of “Must Have” and “Nice To Have” features. These days, this crucial step helps me and my team pick out listings that best suit your needs to reduce the number of properties you need to see. Come to this consultation prepared, having thought about or discussed with your significant other what you want and need. We probably won’t visit as many homes as you normally may have so we’ll work through your list together to make sure we’ve covered as much as we can. We can have this consultation in person, by phone or video conference, depending on your situation.
3D Virtual Tours
As I mentioned, we’re not offering open houses during the pandemic to minimize contact. Instead, we’ve turned to new, exciting ways of virtually showing homes to prospective clients. A favourite in my virtual toolbox is the 3D Matterport virtual tour. This is a great way for clients to safely get a feeling for a home and explore each room from a distance. We can use this as a first step to narrow down the properties you want to then see in person. Some of my clients only see their new home virtually before making an offer; we can include a conditional clause in the offer to allow for any issues discovered in-person. This kind of arrangement really emphasizes the need to work with an agent you trust will disclose everything—the good, the bad and the ugly—not just what will close the deal.
In- Person Viewings During Covid
When an in-person viewing is required or preferred, our safety protocols begin off-property. Anyone who wishes to visit a listed home must complete a Contact Questionnaire with questions about symptoms and travel, and declarations about complying with on-site safety protocols such as sanitization and cough/sneeze etiquette. This form is required in advance of the showing and can also be used for contact tracing, if the need arises.
Masks, Sanitizers and Disposable Napkins
While current guidelines don’t require mask use in private properties, our corporate policy is to require them. Upon entry, there will be a station set up with hand sanitizer and disposable masks for anyone that hasn’t brought their own (I can help supply both of these items if required). Condo building managers often set up hand sanitizer inside the front door and masks within these buildings are typically mandatory as well.
During the showing, the goal is to show as much of the home with as little contact as possible. Sellers are asked to leave closet, cupboard and room doors open to allow buyers to safely view the details of the home. Agents can be responsible for opening/closing any other doors, and we may opt to place descriptive cards around the home detailing other features such as pull-out drawer spice racks, etc. Sellers can also provide sanitizing wipes so I can clean high-contact surfaces such as the front door and stair railings at the end of the viewing.
One question I often get is about bathroom use during viewings. In case a visitor needs to use your bathroom, I suggest stocking some dinner-sized paper napkins that can be used as disposable hand towels.
Military House Hunting
We’re coming up to military posting season which will probably be extra nerve-wracking for many this year. Rest assured I’m here to help make it as painless as possible (check out my past blog on military house-hunting). I expect the housing inventory to continue to be low and prices high for the rest of the year and, of course, COVID precautions and travel restrictions will also complicate matters. Military members are exempt from quarantine-upon-entry requirements but that doesn’t usually apply to their spouses/partners. This means that a military spouse may not be able to visit their potential new home in person before purchasing (I feel like I should start working on a marriage counseling licence!). To combat this, we need open and honest lines of communication, both between spouses and between the spouse at home and me as the agent. I like to schedule a separate consultation with the spouse at home to ensure their thoughts and needs are heard and included in the process, even in their absence.
Speaking of quarantine exemptions, I want to clarify that while exemptions exist, these buyers must still complete the Contact Questionnaire prior to viewing a listing and must disclose their travel history. More importantly, sellers still have the right to refuse entry to exempt travellers if they wish.
Finally, I understand that some sellers have lower risk tolerances or extenuating circumstances that need to be accommodated. If this is the case, please let me know so we can discuss your comfort level and find ways to sell your home with as safely and with as little stress as possible. An exclusive listing (rather than MLS) might be right for you, so watch for my next blog all about exclusive listings!