Home Buying During COVID
It’s 2021 and although we hoped otherwise, it appears that COVID-19 is still affecting our lives in every way, including in Real Estate. From the initial consultation, to viewing properties, writing offers, and closing, all procedures have been adapted to protect your health as well as everyone else who is involved in the transaction. Despite the changes to our protocols, we are successfully helping Buyers find their dream homes and the market has seen a tremendous upswing in many sectors. The reality is, that we have seen many cycles of peaks, valleys, and market changes and know how to help navigate through the circumstances to the finish line!
Our top priority is to protect you and everyone involved and we will continue to monitor new rules as they come forth from our respective Counties and from the CDC. As for now, Real Estate is an essential service and we are out there working diligently every day.
Here are how some of our processes have changed due to COVID-19
If you’re thinking of working with us, the first step is to meet via Zoom or Facetime to go over your objectives and the market. We will discuss all of your needs and desires, answer any questions that you might have, set up an MLS search, and discuss our game plan on how to move you to the next step. Because of showing protocol, you’ll have to be pre-approved with a lender or be able to show proof of funds before we start looking at homes.
Per County protocol, you’ll be asked to review all of the available online marketing before we actually set foot into the home. This could include looking at the available maps, Google Earth, property history, videos and tours of the home as well as the disclosures. If offered by the listing agent, we will make the Seller provided disclosures, inspections and online tours of the home available to you. In person open houses are not currently allowed so once you’ve determined that you’d like to see the property, you’ll have to sign what we’ll call, the “PEAD”. In short, it’s an outline of all of the risks associated with COVID-19 and you’ll sign off that you’ve been informed. We need to send that form to the Listing Agent along with your proof of funds or pre-approval letter (as requested). We’ll all wear masks and maintain social distancing. All of our agents will come with additional PPE to each showing so that booties, gloves, sanitizer, and wipes will be available for you.
If you prefer to have a virtual showing, we are happy to visit the home and then jump on Facetime or Zoom with you so that you don’t have to come to an in-person visit.
Once in the property, expect to wear some PPE and we ask that you refrain from touching things as much as practicable. Typically, showings are limited to 1 agent and 2 buyers from the same household. Any more than that, and we’ll have to ask permission so please let us know in advance if you have a parent or other person that would like to see the home. We suggest leaving children at home or tag teaming with them in the car as to limit their exposure.
Writing Offers and the Inspection and Escrow Period
If you are new to writing offers, we will review the contract with you (for as many times as you wish) via Zoom and its screen sharing option. Once we have an offer written, we will set it up via an electronic signature platform for your signatures. There have been recent Fair Housing issues that have come up (non-COVID related) and although Buyer love letters are still being sent and received with offers, we will only send them to the Listing Agent without your photos on them and only with their permission.
Once you’re in escrow on your home, there may be an inspection period. Each inspector has their own rules about how they go about their business. Some inspectors do not wish for anyone else to be in the home with them. Others are completely OK with it. Because they are all so busy, it’s often the inspector that has the availability that we need who is the one that’s booked. All we ask is that you’re flexible with your expectations.
Appraisers are very busy and often delayed. Although many are still visiting homes in person, it’s not unusual now to have either a drive by appraisal or what’s called a “desk appraisal” where they simply look at the data online. Many cities that require in person resale inspections have adopted different procedures during this time. Unfortunately, there isn’t much consistency so once again, it’ll be case by case and we ask that you’re patient with the process.
A final walkthrough option will be available to you once the seller has moved out and the home is clear. We’ll walk the property just prior to closing to make sure that it’s materially the same home.
When it comes time for your loan to fund and your purchase to close, you’ll find again that the industry has modified its process. Signing your loan documents will most likely be you and a mobile notary at your home. Your loan officer and your REALTOR® will not be present but know that we will be available to you via Zoom or just a phone call away. Anticipate the process to take 1-2 hours. You’ll wire your closing funds so that they arrive to the Title Company the day before your closing date.
Home Prices and COVID
We are not sure that anyone could have predicted that housing prices would have gone up to the degree that they have. The fact that many home sellers are reluctant to having people come through their homes in this environment have further reduced the amount of homes that are available to be viewed and the market is currently a seller’s market with multiple offers that are over asking, and often without contingencies. We will have ongoing discussions with you on the state of the market and position you in the best possible way for success.
Economically speaking, we are still due for a recession at some point. If we had a crystal ball, we’d tell you when that’s coming but since we don’t, the best advice for now is for you to choose a home that you’d be ok living in for the next few years in case of a future dip in prices.
For now, single family homes outside of San Francisco are selling quickly. Condos and Townhouses are taking a bit longer; perhaps that’s because people are looking for more space; space to work from home in, space to have kids learn in, and space between neighbors. San Francisco sales have been a bit slower and the condo market there has taken a bit of a hit as well.
Whatever your situation, we will accommodate to the best of our ability. Know that our primary interest is in the safety of all who are involved but we are closing homes successfully. We have an arsenal of lenders, inspectors, movers, notaries, tradesmen, and so many others who will help ease your transition. As long as you’re patient and have some flexibility, we are going to succeed in finding you your next home!