How to Sell a Home During a Pandemic
Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. real estate industry hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. However, the way that clients shop for and buy homes has changed.
"Real estate is really becoming a digital-first transaction," Zillow home trends expert Amanda Pendleton told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Now that it’s not as safe for home buyers to see properties in person, Pendleton said, much of the house shopping process is taking place online.
Given these conditions, you may be wondering how to more dynamically—and effectively—market your own listings. In this article, we’ll explain how to sell a home during the pandemic.
Pick Up the Phone
Now that it’s rare to have face-to-face conversations, how are you supposed to stay in contact with your clients?
The answer is more old-fashioned than you’d think: by calling them!
Pre-pandemic, most people preferred texts or emails to calls, but the isolation caused by quarantine has led to a voice call Renaissance. According to the New York Times, voice calls are up 33% since the outbreak. That’s great news for real estate professionals, since calling is such a fast, inexpensive way to check in with your clients.
So whether you’re hunting for new listings or are trying to drum up interest in a new property, it’s time to dust off your Rolodex.
Market Yourself on Nextdoor
Long-time real estate professionals know that cultivating your personal brand is essential. Under normal circumstances, you could be growing your contact list through networking events, but traditional networking events are off the table in most states—at least for now.
In the meantime, networking through a local platform is your best bet. For the purposes of real estate professionals, who need hyperlocal connections, the most vital presence to have is Nextdoor. Here’s why:
- There’s no need to build an audience – Unlike Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, businesses on Nextdoor don’t need to “attract” followers. Once you set up a free Business Page and sign up as a Neighborhood Sponsor, your posts will reach the communities you target.
- Nextdoor users are verified residents – Most social media sites don’t require users to use their real names or locations, but in order to join Nextdoor, neighbors have to be able to prove they really live there. That means your Nextdoor posts always reach an audience that’s likely to be interested in them (and in working with you).
- Nextdoor’s real estate section is hyperlocal – If you need to stretch your advertising dollars, Neighborhood Sponsorship is one of your best bets. When you promote yourself and your listings on Nextdoor, you reach a geo-targeted audience that’s made up of 74% homeowners.
Urge Clients to Sell Before Property Values Drop
As all real estate agents know, the only thing certain about the real estate market is that it’s uncertain. That said, the coronavirus’s impact on the economy means that housing prices may not be as high in two years as they are now.
Therefore, gently encouraging cautious sellers to list their homes now may be in their best interests.
If your clients were planning on selling before the pandemic, let them know that suspending their plans doesn’t really make sense, because:
- Their home is already primed to sell.
- Attempts to “time” the market perfectly often fall flat.
- While their property’s value might drastically increase over the long-term, it’s more likely that it will decrease in the short-term. According to HomeLight, it’s possible that the housing market will falter if the U.S. experiences another recession.
Stage Homes Beautifully
This tip for how to sell a home during the pandemic applies during regular circumstances as well: stage it beautifully.
Due to pandemic conditions, potential buyers can’t casually tour houses and notice their good bones. Instead, they’re relying on photos and videos to make the case for why they should purchase your listing.
Help potential buyers see what makes your listings amazing by:
- Asking in-residence owners to thoroughly declutter – Find a storage space company in your area with contactless solutions and steer your clients to them. Especially in smaller homes, decluttering makes a big difference!
- Staging empty homes with virtual furniture – With virtual staging apps like iStaging and VisualStager, you can furnish any vacant space for far less than you’d pay a home stager. Pro tip: try to confine decor colors to just three per room, as more shades can make rooms feel overwhelming.
- Brightening dark areas with fresh flowers or potted plants – Long-lasting flowers, such as carnations, make excellent bouquets. For the best effect, use a large mass of them in a single color. When it comes to houseplants, opt for hardy ones like snake plants, which can thrive even in dim conditions.
- Using three points of lighting in every room – This technique, known as “three-point lighting”, has been used in film, TV, and theater for decades. It helps you to emphasize desirable architectural features while minimizing less attractive ones.
By following these tips, you’ll make your listings’ photographs and virtual tours more appealing to online house shoppers.
Spotlight Pandemic-Friendly Selling Points
Because so many adults and children have been stuck at home, the definition of desirable real estate has shifted. City dwellers are questioning why they pay premium rent to live in a city they can’t experience, while those who work remotely have become sick and tired of shared walls.
In this new climate, you should play up your listings’ COVID-19-friendly features, by:
- Taking ample pictures of kitchen storage – Many consumers started bulk buying in March, and it looks like this custom is here to stay. That means home buyers need somewhere to keep their flats of toilet paper, giant boxes of energy bars, and ten-pound sacks of rice. Assure them that your listings can meet their storage needs by photographing deep kitchen cabinets, garage shelves, pantries, and other storage solutions.
- Making the most of yards – Families that live in apartments have not been having an easy time of it. Show them that your suburban listing could solve all their “bored kid” problems by making sure its lawn looks vast, lush, and impeccable. Stage it with playground equipment, inviting patio furniture, and barbecues. A great outdoor space could be the key to moving that listing fast.
- Staging multiple home offices – With parents—as well as kids—being daily telecommuters, open floor plan homes have become a lot less practical. During the day, students need to be able to hear their teachers, while parents don’t want ordinary household noises interrupting their Zoom meetings. Meet their needs more than halfway by staging finished basements or attics as home offices. If the property has a sun porch, use a long, narrow laptop table and bench to turn it into a children’s study station.
Put Conditions on In-Person Viewings
During the pandemic, busy open houses just aren’t a good idea. Instead, you can help home buyers experience homes through virtual walk-throughs, outside-only tours, and fantastic real estate photos.
If your clients go through all these steps and are still interested in a listing, ask them for proof of lender pre-approval before showing them the home in person. This guideline will help you distinguish serious buyers from casual ones.
For obvious reasons, safe and sanitary in-person tours are much easier to do when properties are vacant. If you need to sell a home that’s tenant- or owner-occupied, ask the buyer’s agents to make offers that are subject to interior inspection.
This type of offer allows the buyer to make an offer without seeing the inside of the property. If they don’t like what they see once they’re inside the home, they’re allowed to back out of the deal without repercussions.
Include a Coronavirus Clause
No guide on how to sell a home during the coronavirus pandemic would be complete without a discussion of COVID-19 clauses.
Currently, some buyers are asking for COVID-19 clauses that give them the ability to extend closing or cancel home sales without giving up their earnest money or incurring any liability.
Theoretically, these clauses protect buyers who get ambushed by unforeseen, pandemic-related circumstances, but they may leave sellers in a lurch.
To be fair to all parties, make COVID-19 clauses an important part of the negotiation process. To safeguard your seller clients, ask that buyers give up their earnest money if they cancel the transaction for any reason. Structured closing deadlines can also help protect sellers’ interests.
Keep Calm and Keep Selling
The guidelines for how to sell a home during the pandemic don’t differ in their essentials from the rules for selling a home under more normal circumstances. The major difference lies in your sales technique.
You will still need to keep in contact with clients, market yourself, nudge sellers, and stage homes well. However, much of this work now has to take place virtually, rather than in person.
In addition, real estate professionals must make accommodations for pandemic conditions by:
- Highlighting pandemic-friendly property features, such as extra storage, green space, and spaces that can double as home offices
- Limiting in-person viewings and making offers contingent on interior inspection
- Sanitizing homes before and after home tours
- Adding COVID-19 clauses to contracts, so that buyers can back out of transactions in the event of illness
These changes may sound complicated, but once you become accustomed to them, they’ll be simple to implement.
CNBC. How to Sell Your Home in the Age of Coronavirus. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/16/coronavirus-how-to-sell-your-home-during-pandemic.html
HomeLight.com. Should I Sell My House Now or Wait Until the Coronavirus Eases Up?. https://www.homelight.com/blog/should-i-sell-my-house-now-coronavirus/
Seattle Post-Intelligencer. How Has Buying and Selling Homes in Seattle Changed Since the Start of the Pandemic?. https://www.seattlepi.com/coronavirus/article/how-buying-selling-homes-changed-during-pandemic-15467798.php
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