Even if you’ve bought and sold many homes in the past, this moving season will be different. From the time you list a home until closing, and even when transitioning from one house to another, you’ll run into many adjustments to help avoid the spread of coronavirus.
Selling Your House
Robert Greenbaum, Chief Sales Officer with AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC (AMS) listed his six-bedroom/three-bath home in Ashburn, Virginia in early 2020. “We were nervous that with COVID-19 concerns and the struggling economy that we would have trouble selling,” says Greenbaum.
The family decluttered, made minor repairs, and painted the interior. A Realtor® friend staged the home and hired a photographer to take about 10 photos per room to get all the angles. “Photos are really important now because there’s a time limit on walkthroughs of 15-30 minutes,” Greenbaum says. The photos were available in the MLS description of the home, allowing prospective buyers to get a really good feel for the home and spaces.
On the actual showing days, a table outside offered sanitizers, face masks, and shoe covers. The family left doors and cupboards open to limit touching. A sign outside requested that buyers not touch anything or bring their young children inside. Buyers were lined up and waiting for about 15 minutes to be able to check out the inside. One buyer’s agent with clients in Texas walked through on her own while using Zoom to share the home’s interior live online with her clients.
In the end, the extra effort was worth it. In its first weekend on the market, there were 26 showings and by Monday the family had 11 offers. Definitely a low inventory of homes in the neighborhood helped drive up demand.
“We wound up accepting an offer that was over the list price,” says Greenbaum.
The close was virtual. The parties met online. The closing agent walked the Greenbaums through the “paperwork,” showing the documents on screen. They held their ID to the camera, and signed their documents electronically. The documents were then notarized online by the closing agent. The entire close took less than half an hour, says Greenbaum.
Selecting a Moving Company
Once the Greenbaums officially accepted one of the buyers’ offers, it was time for them to think about moving. Meeting one moving company happened online. “I used FaceTime and walked through room by room so the estimator could see items we wanted to move and ask questions,” Greenbaum says.
He talked to a second moving company too. This time, the estimator gave him the option of a virtual or in-person estimate. Greenbaum chose the latter. “The inspector told me it was his first in-person estimate in months,” he says.
Buying a Home
The Greenbaum family relocated to Holly Springs, North Carolina, where they found similar changes in looking at homes. “When we were house-hunting, we’d drive separately from our agent. When we would look at houses, we’d wear our masks and try not to touch anything. As we were mainly looking at new construction, it was a little easier in that we didn’t have to worry about giving the owners advance notice,” Greenbaum says.
In the end, they found a home they loved with four bedrooms and four baths, about 20 minutes from downtown Raleigh.
This time, the closing was at an attorney’s office. The conference room table had plexiglass down the middle with a pass-through cutout to enable documents to be shared from one side to the other. “We wore masks and they passed the documents through the window for us to read and sign,” Greenbaum says.
What to Expect
If you’ll be moving this year or in 2021, expect a different process. “The biggest change was uncertainty,” says Greenbaum. “We just didn’t know how the virus would impact the selling of our Virginia house, moving the contents of our house, and buying in North Carolina. There were many surprises.”
One thing’s for certain, you’ll need to be patient and build in extra time. Here are a few pointers:
If You're Selling
Take lots of photos and even have a professional video of your home’s best features. Many Realtors® are relying on “virtual showings” in lieu of bringing people to homes in person.
Be flexible about people coming into your home (as long as they take precautions). And, remember, it’s fine to set limits like requesting that no children come inside or asking for a time limit on each showing.
Plan on being gone all day during showings. “It keeps your family, and the buyers, safer,” says Greenbaum. “Then clean all surfaces when you return home.”
If You're Buying
Contact your mortgage company to pre-qualify you. Some lenders have introduced stricter criteria in response to COVID-19 that make it harder for some buyers to qualify. Your employment status will be checked several times during the process.
If you have to order appliances for your new home, do it very early. “We found there’s a minimum 30-60 day wait on appliances because of low inventory,” Greenbaum says.
Contact utility companies early as transitioning accounts and turning on water and electric in your name is taking longer these days.
- Find a mover at least 60 days in advance. During the early months of COVID-19, very few people were moving, so now many moving companies are booked and playing catch up.