Many would-be homebuyers were just beginning their home search this spring when the coronavirus outbreak transformed day-to-day life. Yet in many parts of the world, real estate remains active.
“There are houses being listed and sold every day,” says Bob Sherman, a real estate agent with RE/MAX 1st Olympic Realtors in Lynchburg, Virginia. “The way we do business is changing, but it’s still going on.”
As homebuyers evaluate their next step now that many states are reopening and home showings resume, it’s important they consider all of their options, according to Cande Green, a real estate agent with RE/MAX DFW Associates in Frisco, Texas.
“We’re finding ways around the problems and issues of the current situation,” Green says. “Agents are still working and are here to answer questions to help buyers adjust their plans.”
For homebuyers who now need more flexibility in their timelines and finances, the strategies below could help them move forward with confidence.
1. Consider putting less down to save more money for an emergency.
“The advice is always to have three-to-six-month’s pay set aside for a rainy day, but people aren’t always able to do that,” Green says.
Due to the uncertainty of how the coronavirus will impact the economy long-term, two of Green’s buyers decided to reduce their down payment to have more money set aside in savings.
“Putting less down will make a difference in their monthly payment, but not a substantial one,” Green says. “If paying slightly more each month means having peace of mind in case of an emergency, I think it’s smart. I don’t think they would have thought to do that if we were in a more normal time.”
2. Work with an agent to have a backup plan written into the contract.
With government social distancing and stay-at-home orders varying from state-to-state, real estate agents are adapting their business to serve clients in a constantly changing environment. That includes some agents now specifying more flexibility and extended timelines in the real estate purchase agreement for their clients. It’s designed to protect both the homebuyer and seller, given the unique circumstances.
“Everybody understands the current situation,” Green says. “One of my buyers was fully underwritten, all we needed to do was an appraisal. Everyone, including the seller and their agent, was in agreement that we could do an extension on the contract if circumstances connected with Coronavirus added delays.”
Some buyers who leverage video tours or virtual showings may be nearly ready to move ahead with a purchase, but they want one final look at the property in person. Sherman says that can be written in the contract as well.
“Agents in the D.C. area, have seen agents write a contract that says the buyer has at least 90 days before closing,” Sherman says.
The property is classified as under contract and off the market until the buyer can visit in-person and make a final decision.
3. Visit the home from a safe distance
Buyers can learn a lot about a home without stepping foot inside. Once a buyer has narrowed down properties using online tools, driving or walking past the property can be a good next step in the elimination process.
“We’re now allowed to do in-person tours in my state, but before scheduling any showings I ask my clients to look at every photo, virtual tour or video that is available online and take a drive by the property to make sure it’s definitely one they want to take a look at,” says Laura D’Ardenne, an agent with RE/MAX Cherry Creek in Denver, Colorado.
Driving past the property can also give the potential buyers insight into neighborhood features – perhaps there’s a park that wasn’t mentioned in the listing, or there’s a charming wine bar within walking distance.
4. Hire a trusted guide
One of the most valuable perspectives an agent can offer buyers right now is knowledge and expertise of navigating a variety of markets and circumstances. Adapting to changing environments isn’t new; the challenges are just different.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years and rode through the hurdles when the market fell in 2009,” Green says. “I had one of my best years that year – I think it’s really important for clients to know that agents were still able to help people buy and sell homes in down markets.”
As the real estate process continues to evolve to fit life, real estate agents continue to serve as trusted guides through one of life’s most important transactions.
“Everybody is looking for some level of comfort right now, and agents can help with that,” Green says. “We offer homebuyers and sellers a light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re going to support them through this.”
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