Safety First! Housing Market’s Re-opening Protocols amid COVID-19

With the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, many activities took a pause and the real estate market was totally no exception. The coronavirus pandemic has cut into open houses in a major way, but a new survey by the National Association of Realtors suggests potential home buyers are eager to resume visiting open houses. A majority of people, 65%, who attended an open house within the last year would do so now without hesitation, according to the report.

In the recent statement released by the National Association of Realtors’ president, Vince Malta said “The real estate industry – and our country – has endured some very challenging times for several months, but we’re seeing signs of progress and we are earnestly hoping the worst is behind us”. According to him, while June was celebrated as Homeownership Month, we embrace today’s version of homeownership and the unique paths homeowners take to realize their dream. For prospective buyers, the desire to own a home remains strong and the guidance, expertise, and professionalism realtors provide is more important now than ever.

But at this point, safety measures will now have to be first in line, finding its way on top of the priority list. Real Estate IQ probes the protocols and standard operating procedures of the housing market as it reopens itself to resume business as usual. 

As per the Public Health Experts

Selling homes was deemed an essential service in some places and as of late May, physical home tours are now allowed in all 50 states. Sellers should limit tours and require buyers to wear protective coverings; buyers should ask key questions about ventilation and take advantage of virtual tours.

Public Health experts believe that the risks present in the home or in the home buying/selling process are typically low and manageable so here are the important reminders for those getting involved in house selling any time soon:

  • Maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and wash hands regularly. Sellers can open doors and windows to bring in fresh outdoor air, which can cut down on airborne transmission.
  • Sellers could also consider temperature checks before allowing prospective buyers inside. Schedule home visits with intervals of a few hours or days. Since the virus decays over time, this is most effective in unoccupied homes. 
  • Buyers should be extra vigilant in apartment buildings. Ask the building owner or manager about the ventilation system. If they are bringing in enough fresh outdoor air or doing measures with recirculated air, buildings should have a high-efficiency filter. 
  • Homeowners can invest in HEPA-based portable air purifiers. It’s an extra safety layer, and also a visible signal to buyers that you are taking the situation seriously. 

Tips from Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 

As per the  Industry Experts

Sellers can reduce the number of people coming into their homes by limiting tours to financially qualified buyers with mortgage pre-qualification letters in hand, as recommended by the National Association of Realtors. 

  • Require masks and provide shoe coverings. Turn on all the lights and open doors to limit touching surfaces.
  • Provide online resources such as floor plans, virtual tours, and lots of photos. 
  • Buyers should do as much research as possible before requesting a visit. Instead of touring a dozen homes, which was typically a pre-COVID procedure, try to limit yourself to just a few.
  • At the height of the outbreak, some buyers might have committed to offers sight-unseen. If you do need to move quickly (or are eager to lock in low mortgage rates) ask for a viewing contingency clause in your contract, so you don’t get stuck with a house that does not you’re your standards and expectations.

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Protocols and Extra Precautions

The survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) suggests that nearly half of buyers (47%) and sellers (53%) said that during the current pandemic, seeking guidance from a real estate professional when searching for or selling a home is much more important than before. 

A majority of buyers (54%) and sellers (62%) also believed that particularly during the pandemic, a real estate agent’s assistance is highly valued and sought for. Also, 59% of buyers and 58% of sellers said buying and selling real estate is an essential service.

Despite the rise of virus-fighting measures such as virtual home tours to help keep buyers and sellers safe, about half of buyers surveyed, 51%, said an agent can help buyers glean more valuable information from online listings than buyers could uncover on their own. More than half of buyers, 56%, said they believe an agent can save a lot of  time and stress from skimming through online listings. 

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Some buyers said they would rather be on the side of caution: 15% would not be comfortable attending an open house unless there was an approved COVID-19 vaccine and/or a proven medical protocol to mitigate and remedy the effects of the virus; 20% would be willing to resume attending open houses as long as a combination of local or national medical authorities, and/or the location they are visiting provided assurances it is safe to do so.

The buyer or anyone going into a home should look for the same red flags they would look for anywhere else in society. You can tell right away whether a seller is taking precautions. They must wear masks and have a proper code of conduct. 

Aside from protocols put in place, a lot will depend on the buyers’ comfort levels. The report offers key actions real estate agents can take as a game plan when they continue to navigate their response to the pandemic crisis. 

  • Pair virtual tours with written information about home improvements
  • Be sure to include a tour of the neighborhood with the house tour
  • Actively engage in the online search process for or with buyers
  • Be prepared to limit the number of visitors at one time
  • Stock up on sanitizers and wipes, they are likely permanent
  • Know the protocols, follow them, and don’t be hesitate to enforce them

Moving forward, we have to understand that we do not have control over the turnout of this pandemic. But we can control our response and reactions to it. Remember that the way you deal with the pandemic doesn’t define you as a real estate investor and it doesn’t define the industry. At the end of the day, our own safety will matter most.

So, let’s learn to follow protocols as we adjust to the new normal setting because just like a storm in the night, this too shall pass. 

Source : www.forbes.com  

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