The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected many businesses and many people. Lockdowns have been put in place. Safe practices and procedures have been admonished. And many businesses have adapted to a new way of doing business.
At grocery stores you see patrons wearing gloves and masks as they shop for goods. At the checkout register you’ll see cash registers shielded with protective plastic shields. Restaurants are offering pickup options with no dine-in. Large retail stores are offering curb-side pickup after you’ve ordered product online.
The way real estate is bought and sold has also been affected by this pandemic. Technology that existed for decades but were taken for granted have suddenly come to the forefront of real estate marketing and transacting in these times.
Online meeting software such as Zoom is replacing the face to face buyer and seller consultations. Virtual tours are becoming more sophisticated with 3D modelling and the ability to walk-through a house and see it in detail without stepping foot in it. Open houses, which can no longer be physical, have gone virtual.
If you were planning to sell your property in the 2020 spring market and got hindered by the pandemic, what should you know about selling your house virtually?
Nothing has changed as far as preparing your home to be marketed in a desirable fashion. You should start preparing your house by depersonalizing (removing personal photos and artifacts) and decluttering (showing off as much usable space as practically possible). You need to show your house in the absolute best way possible especially since many buyers will only get to see it virtually.
Meeting and Interviewing Realtors
Interviewing more than one Realtor is an important step to take especially in times where challenges faced by the real estate industry affect the marketing and sale of your house. Different Realtors offer different solutions, services, commission structures, expertise, and marketing plans. When you choose a Realtor to help you sell your house virtually, make sure they explain what they will do to protect you and your family, provide the most exposure for your property, and negotiate the best price and terms for the sale of your house.
It may seem like a hassle connecting with two or more Realtors before choosing the one to work with, but since physical meetings are restricted (if not outright prohibited), there’s a great chance you’ll be meeting the Realtors you’re interviewing via Zoom. From the comfort of your home, you’ll be able to see the Realtors go through their listing presentation, explain what they will to do help you sell your house virtually, and answer any questions you may have.
Make sure you choose to work with a Realtor who has experience, is familiar with your local market, and provides a professional marketing plan to maximize the exposure of your house virtually to prospective buyers.
Signing the Listing Documents
Signing paper documents to list your property for sale is passé. A few years ago, the introduction of electronic signatures made paperless signing a reality. Once your house is ready to be listed on the market, your Realtor can arrange to meet with you online via a Zoom meeting, send you documents via email, so you can review them and sign them electronically.
This saves you time from having to drive to your Realtors office to meet with them, and also minimizes your exposure because your Realtor doesn’t have to go to your property again and again just to get documents signed.
Once your Realtor receives the signed documents, their brokerage will be able to process the information and put your property listing online for the market to see.
If you chose the right Realtor to work with during the interview process, your property will receive maximum marketing exposure through digital channels. Selling your house virtually means real estate agents familiar with digital marketing will utilize social media, property websites, virtual tours with 3D walk-throughs, paid ads, search advertising, neighbourhood targeting, virtual open houses and other strategies to market your property to potential buyers.
Digital marketing for the sale of your house is very important especially during these times. Buyers are visiting real estate websites such as remax.ca or realtor.ca, searching for houses that suit their criteria, and seeing photos, videos and virtual tours before even deciding to explore a property further.
Your Realtor should be able to strategically compose a digital marketing plan to help you get the most number of buyers to see your house and consider it as an option for their home buying journey. An experienced Realtor with a professional digital marketing background will show you the effectiveness of the various campaigns they put together, and explain to you how they will help you find the right buyer for your house.
Virtual & Physical Showings
Getting prospective buyers to see your home listed online and through digital marketing channels is just the first step. The buyer conducting a virtual or even physical showing is the next step. Let’s talk about virtual showings first.
Many homes are being sold today without the buyer physically stepping foot in the house. With the technology and digital marketing for the sale of houses amidst this pandemic, buyers are relying on high definition photography and videography, interactive virtual tours, 3D walk throughs and even virtual reality to explore a house for sale without stepping foot in it.
Some buyers are choosing to make an offer based on a virtual showing, and including conditions such as a physical showing or a home inspection, before finalizing the sale. For a seller, this means no buyer traffic in a house, greatly reducing the chance of exposure to potential danger and reducing the need to constantly be cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and fixtures.
Physical showings are still happening right now, but with great caution and care. Realtors showing houses to buyers are minimizing the number of buyers coming into the house, providing personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, and practicing hand sanitizing and disinfecting of surfaces such as lockboxes and door knobs.
Sellers allowing physical showings are not present while buyers and their agent are walking through the house. They leave lights on and doors open so that buyers do not have to touch any surfaces. And they provide disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers for buyers to use.
The most important thing to consider when choosing whether or not to allow buyers to physically see your house for sale is you and your family’s safety. Safety precautions are being practiced to make sure buyers and sellers are safe during physical showings. And what sellers and their agents are noticing right now is the most motivated and interested buyers are the ones who end up looking at the house because of the extra steps and effort involved to actually see it.
Make sure you talk with your Realtor about a plan on how to virtually and physically conduct showings.
Negotiating the Offer
Let’s say a buyer has seen your house listed for sale, went through a virtual showing, possibly conducted a physical showing, and is now ready to make an offer. What happens next?
The negotiation process between buyers and sellers (and their agents) do not happen face to face at the moment. The buyer and their agent prepares an offer digitally, signs it electronically, and then sends it by email to the seller’s agent who then presents the offer to the sellers via Zoom conference and using email.
Offers are negotiated through online meetings, phone calls, text messages and emails. Once all parties agree on a price and terms, the final documents are signed electronically by all parties involved.
Negotiating offers during this global pandemic has become much more efficient as Realtors with all levels of experience have embraced digital technology to conduct business. Electronic signatures and digital communication has made it easier and more efficient to negotiate offers.
Instead of Realtors driving back and forth to get signatures on paper offers, driving to the seller’s house or the seller’s agent’s office, face-to-face negotiations at set times of the day, and repeating the whole process if the parties aren’t agreeing on the terms, offers are now being sent back and forth instantly with minimal obstacles.
Negotiating the sale of your house virtually has made it easier to connect a buyer and seller to a common agreement — and these practices will become adapted as a common way of doing business after this pandemic is over.
Closing the Sale
In addition to buyer and seller agents doing business electronically, lawyers have adapted technology to make sure the closing of your home sale is done virtually as well. Documents are sent to you, and lawyers witness your signature through teleconferencing tools. Funds are handled electronically, and the proceeds of your property sale can be mailed or wire transferred depending on the lawyer and brokerage you are working with. Keys can be placed in a lockbox and the code released to the new homeowners upon a successful closing.
Closing the sale on your virtual house has actually becoming easier. Instead of you driving to the lawyers office, waiting for your appointment, signing documents, handing over keys, and then picking up the cheque after the closing, everything is handled much more efficiently — and this may be something you’ll see happen a lot more.
Should You Sell Your House Today?
I’ve just described to you the process sellers will go through when they sell their house virtually in today’s market. If you were planning to sell in the spring and were hindered because of the global pandemic, the answer to whether or not you should sell today depends on your goals.
Are you moving to rightsize your home?
Do you have a desire to place your children in a particular school and need to buy a house in that neighbourhood?
Are you relocating because of changes to your finances or working conditions?
Sales are happening — and while market conditions will be a topic in a future discussion, we have to realize what’s happening right now. Sellers have embraced the current market’s reality. Buyers are still out there looking for a home to buy. Sales are not at the level they used to be but they are still happening.
If you’re selling in today’s market, you need to be aware of what is happening in your local market and identify any opportunities that make sense for you to list in this current market.
List safely and work with a real estate agent who’s knowledgeable and can help you navigate these market conditions.