By Larissa Runkle | Jun 4, 2020
With every day of this pandemic feeling like it brings a fresh batch of news, you’d be forgiven for feeling confused about the actual state of things now. While many cities start to reopen—and some continue to experience a high volume of new COVID-19 cases—it’s hard to know how any sector of the economy is doing, especially the real estate market.
Are things getting back to normal? Is now an OK (or even appropriate) time to consider selling a home? Whether you’re curious about the timing of a sale or the nitty-gritty details of how it will all go down, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve gathered advice from the real estate experts to answer your most pressing questions about selling a home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Can I sell my house during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Selling a house should always be based on a number of factors, particularly with regard to your family’s health and financial situation. But to cut to the chase: Yes, you can still sell a home during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly now that states are beginning to reopen.
In most markets, inventories are low and prices are high—which means you can still make a profitable sale.
“Now’s a great time to sell,” says Michelle Sloan, a broker and a Realtor® who's with Re/Max Time Cincinnati. “With low inventory and high buyer interest, many homes are selling very quickly—within days or hours in some cases. Interest rates are also low, and there’s serious pent-up demand for homes, especially in lower price ranges.”
Is it safe to sell your home during such an outbreak?
You might be asking yourself if it’s safe to go through the traditional home showing and selling process. Assuming your family members are all in good health, there are several precautions your real estate agent can take to safely show your home to interested buyers.
“We’re allowing showings, but with safety in mind,” Sloan says.
For her team, that means no overlapping showings, no children in the house, masks on, shoes off, and hand sanitizer at the door. She also recommends people leave all of their lights on and doors open (even for closets), since this translates into fewer surfaces being touched.
Are houses even selling now?
Yes! The fact is that people still need to move, pandemic or no pandemic. For instance, in Austin, TX, at least 400 homes “and counting” are closing every single week, reports Regine Nelson with Wealthward Realty.
“Austin is low on inventory; we still have more people moving here than we have housing available,” she says.
Other markets, like Tampa, FL, are seeing a similar trend in sales.
“Houses are definitely selling now,” says Nadia Anac, a Realtor with Reagan Realty. “In my market, I’ve even been in multiple-offer situations.”
The key to these kinds of numbers seems to be in the inventory: Markets with low inventory are seeing houses sold quickly. As always, we’d recommend chatting with a local real estate agent to get the pulse on exactly how your market is performing.
Should I sell my house during a recession?
Since this recession is largely dictated by the pandemic, it’s almost impossible to keep the two separate. But if you do decide to sell during this period of economic downturn, take the time to consider your own financial stability, as well as the conditions of the market you're moving to.
“If you planned to sell your home due to relocation, a short sale, or moving for larger space, then I would recommend proceeding—but with caution,” says Nelson. “Do you have another home or area in mind? Always be sure to see if what you are seeking is available or will be available when you’re ready to find a property to purchase.”
And while the buyer pool has undoubtedly shrunk in the past few weeks, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“Homes are still selling, but lending requirements have tightened, meaning buyers are more qualified and ready to move forward,” says Karen Parnes, owner of NextHome Your Way.
Will I have competition if I try to sell my house right now?
“You’re likely to have much less competition as a seller right now,” Parnes says, since potential sellers are still wary about putting their homes on the market amid a pandemic. (These conditions are expected to change as summer ramps up; more on that later.)
But Nelson advises her clients to avoid getting caught up in the competition, and focus instead on the things they can control—like competitive pricing, getting their home in a good state, and having a solid marketing strategy.
Another point to remember? Competition happens on both sides of the street.
“Once you sell, you’re way more likely to have competition as a buyer,” says Parnes.
Should I expect to sell for less right now?
Not necessarily. Although the economy’s experiencing a recession, that doesn’t mean prices are going down.
“There are less buyers, but there are also a lot less homes on the market,” says Parnes. “The old rule of supply and demand still holds.”
While some predicted a price drop for 2020, experts now expect the summer home-buying market to be much hotter than expected, as many Americans feel more secure in their jobs and can physically step into the homes they are considering.
While you might not have to drop your price, Anac reminds her clients that they may need to be more patient in pursuing a good sale.
“If your house is priced correctly, and depending on your market, it may just take a little bit longer to sell,” she says.
How can I sell my house without allowing buyers to walk through?
It may be the safest option, but it's not the easiest to pull off. Understandably, buyers want to see the home they’re buying in person. And no, telling them they can walk the property without entering won't help matters much.
“It’s mostly impossible to sell your home with no showings or [prospective buyers] in the home at all,” says Parnes, although she admits "real estate transactions are still happening in states where showings are not allowed and being done completely virtually.”
If you have special health concerns or live with someone who’s considered high-risk, talk with your real estate agent about the possibility of virtual showings. Otherwise, consider just cleaning up thoroughly after would-be buyers leave.
Should I stage my house?
“Staged homes always sell faster,” says Anac, “but especially in times like these.”
The real question isn’t whether you should stage your house, but how you should stage it. With more tours and showings happening online, you might consider having your home virtually staged rather than actually inviting people into your home to decorate it.
How can I prepare my home for a virtual tour?
A virtual tour can run the gamut from a live walk-through with an agent on FaceTime to a sophisticated 3D rendering from companies such as Matterport. But for the most part you want to prepare for a virtual tour the same way you would for a still-photo shoot—by decluttering it, upping the curb appeal, and making sure nothing is broken or an eyesore.
“Make sure everything is clean, all lights are turned on, fans are off, blinds are open, surfaces are cleared, and everything is put away,” advises Anac.
How can I close remotely?
States are handling remote closings a little differently, so the short answer is to ask your real estate agent. The long answer: The way settlements are being handled varies quite a bit.
“Some, but not all, states have remote settlements,” says Parnes. “Some have approved it temporarily, and those that don't are typically splitting the buyers and sellers at settlement and having only the essential people involved at the table.”