By Carl Johnson, REALTOR, Broker
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused new challenges for almost every industry as well as required adaptations in the way that business is done, and Real Estate is not immune to this shift. Buying a home during the pandemic has taught us a lot as Realtors and as consumers: that by following CDC guidelines, providing as much information as possible, and communicating effectively, we are able to stay safe while still maintaining our business.
That being said, it is important to minimize the chance of exposure by only meeting in-person when completely necessary. Potential homebuyers should drive around and look at home listings they and their Realtor have found to be interesting. It is important to look at and take note of the property from the outside, but also the entire neighborhood. By checking out the neighborhood and surrounding area, you are able to assess if the location meets your expectations. When it comes time to get out of the car and check out the property, you will have your Realtor there to accompany you.
One of the most important changes in buying a home during the pandemic is the increase in information provided to potential buyers. Above all else, preparing high quality photos to be posted for public view is paramount. However, it has become practice to provide all the information possible as a precautionary measure; if the buyers are able to rule out a home from the details on the listing site, then it is one less place they need to go and potentially be exposed to the virus. Within the photo gallery of the home, I personally include the floorplan as well so that buyers may get a clear idea of what the layout of the home looks like. Utilizing technology, sellers are also providing 3D virtual tours as well as video walkthroughs, allowing buyers to gain a deeper understanding of what the house looks like without needing to be there in person.
Communicating effectively with clients means relying heavily on video communication software. My clients only see me in person if it is an absolutely necessity for me to be there. This is why it has become so vital to meet with clients virtually and as often as we can. Additionally, I rely on doing virtual open houses for homebuyers so they are able to ask questions as they are seeing the home. Although the suspension of in-person open houses in Durham County was lifted in early June, it continues to be strongly discouraged by the city government. As a personal business practice, I do not hold open houses in order to limit the amount of in-person interactions.
Early in the pandemic, I had two interested parties attend a virtual open house and the buyer that ended up purchasing the property was actually from out of the country. They ended up buying the home because I was able to answer all of their questions for them. That virtual connection was crucial for the sale and purchase of that property. Because this was at a time when people were more cautious and uncertain about the virus, it was important to start implementing effective virtual tools.
Once a client is very sure about moving forward with a property, it is time to see the home in person. One really big transition that we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic is that homebuyers need to do some homework before visiting a home. When we go see the house, we follow all guidelines: maintaining a distance of at least six feet inside and outside, always wearing a mask indoors, and sanitizing hands as soon and as often as possible. During house tours, I walk around with a disinfectant wipe in my hand so that I am not actually touching anything. Additionally, as a listing agent, I turn on all the lights and open all doors before buyers arrive to limit the amount of contact.
Since the start of the pandemic, the housing market has been flourishing. According to Triangle MLS, the average homes listed for sale per month from March to November was 6,158 compared to 8,924 homes per month on average in 2019. Additionally, the average closed sales per month since March has been 4,012 compared to 3,743 sales during the same time period in 2019. The supply and demand in the housing market has changed dramatically with less properties listed for sale and more properties sold. Mortgage rates being historically low are another reason for the stimulation in the demand side of the market.
Because the demand of homes has increased while the supply has decreased, the price of homes has shifted upwards. This is represented in the data: the average median sales price from March to November 2019 was $279,119 and increased to $296,062 during the same time period in 2020. The price may also continue to rise due to an increase in home sizes. “Another change related to work-from-home you might see is new homes will likely be larger. There will need to be dedicated work space away from the chaos of home life,” said Mark Zimmerman, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at NC Realtors in Insight, Vol. 99 No. 4. Also, the average median days on the market has decreased from 9.67 last year to 6 days this year. Practically, this means if buyers love a home, they need to move quickly because of how fast the market is turning. This emphasizes the importance of a client and their Realtor needing to be on the same page so there is a laser-focused effort.
One of the biggest challenges of buying a home during the pandemic is the dangers that high-risk people may face. Homebuyers who are most susceptible may prefer completing the process entirely virtually, to risking potential exposure – a solution for a very valid concern.
Another reason there are less homes on the market is that sellers may not want to put a property on the market that is still occupied by residents. The occupants may not feel comfortable, as much as they would normally, having people coming to their home to tour it. This is a very real concern for home sellers. They may not want strangers visiting their home while they are still living in it. As this continues, a cycle forms, slowing the amount of houses put on the market and therefore decreasing supply.
However, with all safety protocols put in place and additional efforts to ensure safety, sellers can feel comfortable putting their house on the market while living there. As long as the listing and buyer agent are doing their due diligence and urging everyone involved to follow the appropriate steps, everyone can stay safe.
In April, a buyer contacted me to see a home because of the 3D interactive tour that was available and all the information that had been provided. Before the showing, the agent called and informed me their client was high-risk and asked us to sanitize anything we touch, wear shoe booties, and clean our hands frequently. By following these procedures, the client was able to feel safe. The buyer’s confidence in the home was reassured after the visit and he ended up signing the documents and placing an offer immediately afterwards.
Although there are new challenges facing the Real Estate industry, as Realtors, it is our job to adapt and ensure the safety of everyone involved. Buying a house during the pandemic can be made into a pleasant experience with the proper effort and the right Realtor.
I’ve lived in the Triangle area since 1986, and it has always been home in my heart. I attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for high school and college, where I studied voice. After graduating, I decided to enter the business world, where I worked in several marketing, publishing and advertising endeavors, one which took me across the United States prior to my real estate career. After spending years traveling, I am so happy to return home and share my love for this community with others. You can also find me hosting Optimistic Opportunities, a podcast focused on motivational and inspirational “Stories of Strength.” Learn more about Carl Johnson by visiting www.CarlJohnsonRealEstate.com.