Published in: Mortgages | May 18, 2020

Selling a Home During COVID-19? Here's What You Need to Know

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Selling a home during a pandemic is not the same as selling under normal circumstances. 

An older couple meeting with their realtor in their living room.

Image source: Getty Images

A lot of people are changing their plans because of the novel coronavirus. Trips are being called off. Milestone celebrations, like weddings, are being postponed. And many folks are altering their spending habits to accommodate our current reality. 

In light of all this upheaval, now may not necessarily be the best time to put a home on the market. But what if you have no choice but to sell? It could be that you're moving for a job or for family purposes and have to list your home immediately. Or maybe you don't have to sell right now, but the timing works for you and you're eager to forge forward. 

It's more than possible to sell a home in the midst of a health and financial crisis, but you'll need to do so strategically. Here are a few things to keep in mind. 

1. You'll need to rely on virtual tours

Usually, selling a home means bracing for a stream of prospective buyers to invade your house and inspect every nook and cranny. Nowadays, potential buyers are trying to limit their property visits. As a seller, your goal should be to limit the number of people who physically enter your living space, too. As such, prepare to take advantage of video technology so that buyers can view your home online. 

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Video tours actually aren't new; real estate agents have been using them for years. But it's more important now than ever to take the time to showcase your home online so that people can get a sense of what it looks and feels like. That means you should sign up with a real estate professional who well versed in virtual technology and gear up to sink some time into getting that video tour just perfect. 

2. You'll need to take extra precautions during buyer visits or open houses

While a virtual tour can help some buyers determine whether they're interested in purchasing your home or not, ultimately, it's a rare person who will sign a contract to buy a house without seeing it themselves first. So at some point, you will have strangers walking through your living space, and you'll need to work with your real estate agent to pull that off safely.

Your best bet, if possible, is to avoid being present when buyers come to check out your home. (That's a good practice in non-pandemic times, too.) Let your real estate agent walk buyers around, and clear your family out, especially if you have young children. Additionally, you'll need to invest in supplies that make in-person viewings safer for everyone -- think hand sanitizer or gloves and disposable booties that go over shoes. 

Furthermore, you'll need to work with your real estate agent to set limits as to the areas of your home that buyers can touch or get close to. You'll generally need to let visitors inspect your kitchen and check out your bathrooms, but they may not need to enter your kids' bedrooms. If that's the case, it's safer for everyone if they simply scope out those rooms from the doorway. 

Finally, you'll need to prepare to do a thorough cleaning once potential buyers have exited your space. Have your real estate agent take note of every surface that's been touched so you can scrub it down as needed. Of course, this level of cleaning is likely to be a real burden, so encourage your real estate agent to schedule back-to-back showings whenever possible. You're better off cleaning once after two buyers visit than having to clean two separate times.

3. You'll need to price your home just right -- and accept that you may not get top dollar for it

Right now, a lot of people are concerned about their long-term financial prospects -- even those who still have their jobs. As such, potential buyers may not be as generous with their offers as you'd like them to be. The last thing you want to do is scare off buyers with too high an asking price, so work with your real estate agent to come up with the right number, keeping in mind that people may be less likely to stretch their budgets right now. You'll also want to decide on the lowest sale price you're willing or able to accept, as that will help you navigate the offers you receive. 

Keep in mind, too, that some buyers may struggle to get mortgages in the coming weeks or months. Lenders are already tightening up requirements in this regard, so prepare to be patient. 

Selling a home is a stressful endeavor in the best of times, and right now, it's extra tricky. Some smart planning on your part, however, can make an otherwise trying process a lot easier.

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