Everything You Need to Know About Buying or Selling a House in the Coronavirus Era

buying or selling a house in Indianapolis

While many of us spent this spring and early summer sheltering in place, others dealt with a different challenge—how to buy or sell a home and move.

How does one navigate the many-stepped process of moving when the rest of the world is seemingly shut down?

The answer, at least for myself and many other professionals in the real estate industry, is as respectfully and safely as possible.

Just like many other industries, the real estate business has had to quickly pivot and adapt to try to continue operations in this “new normal” we find ourselves in. The bottom line is, pandemic or no pandemic, people still have to move. If you’ve ever moved yourself, you know that there’s never a perfect time to do it, and often people have to move for personal or professional reasons completely outside of their control.

The buying, selling, and moving process is generally the same as it ever was, give or take a few extra precautions and a lot more mask-wearing. If you’re thinking about moving anytime soon, here are a few things to keep in mind and discuss with your Realtor.

Put your Realtor on speed dial

One of the reasons I got into the real estate business is because I love people. I enjoy meeting face-to-face, talking, getting to know folks and learning more about them. With the presence of COVID-19, however, face-to-face meetings that aren’t 100 percent necessary are happening less and less.

As you start to work with a Realtor to buy or list a home, chances are the majority of your conversations will happen over the phone or via video conference. Even listing appointments, which traditionally have always been held in-person, might happen remotely in a way that allows the Realtor to walk through the home without the sellers present.

The same is true for buyers. More and more agents are investing in professional, high-quality photos and virtual, 3-D tours for their listings. This allows buyers to get a really good visual sense of the home before making the decision to schedule an in-person showing. That way, it’s easier for buyers to eliminate homes that don’t match their criteria and instead focus only on the homes they know are true contenders.

Showings are still happening, with extra protocols in place

If you’re a seller, it’s really up to you to determine your comfort level in terms of whether or not you want to have showings, and if you do, what precautions you’d like people who enter your home to take. 

It’s always easier on sellers if they can move out of their home prior to putting it on the market, but that’s not an option for everyone. For those who need to live in their home while it’s listed on the market, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask buyers and showing agents to wear masks while on the property, sanitize their hands, wear shoe coverings, and either wear gloves or avoid touching surfaces, light switches and door knobs when possible.

The Indianapolis market is hot right now and inventory is low, which means that when a home is for sale and becomes available for showings, there’s a good chance a lot of people will be wanting to see it in-person. To help limit the number of people inside the home at one time, a lot of listing agents are not allowing overlapping showings — meaning only one party is allowed inside the home at one time.

Finally, there’s the option of doing completely virtual showings. With the quality of virtual 3-D tours and the ability to FaceTime or Zoom your Realtor while inside the home, there’s no reason you couldn’t decide to purchase a home based solely on a virtual tour. It’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly an option if you need to move but aren’t comfortable with regular, in-person showings as either a buyer or a seller.

What about open houses?

If you’re like me, bopping around three to four open houses every Sunday used to be my idea of a fun afternoon. But now? Well, let’s just say they’re not as carefree as they used to be.

Open houses are back on the schedule in Indianapolis after a brief hiatus earlier this spring, but the way they’re operating depends on the brokerage, the seller, and the agent who’s hosting.

I’ve hosted two open houses in this new coronavirus era and put quite a bit of thought into how to make them as safe as possible. For open houses pre-COVID, you would have found me walking around the house, talking with people, and (gasp!) shaking hands. Now, I set up a folding table outside the home where I can greet everyone from a distance and better monitor traffic. 

Personally, at my open houses, I’ve required everyone to wear a mask, had hand sanitizer available, and also had everyone sign a waiver that basically said they were currently healthy and were willing to take reasonable precautions, including keeping at least six feet of space between them and anyone outside their party. All of those precautions seemed to work well for everyone — if anyone felt put off by signing a waiver or wearing a mask, they didn’t vocalize it.

Attending an open house is, at this point, a personal choice. If you’re thinking about going to one but have questions about how it will be run, you could always call the listing agent ahead of time and ask for more clarity.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and communicate your needs

When it comes to all the other aspects of buying, selling, and moving like scheduling an inspection, hiring contractors, and finding a moving company, the best thing you can do to protect you and your family is to do your research and ask questions. 

Many companies have started posting their new COVID-19 policies online for you to read and familiarize yourself with before scheduling an appointment. Even then, it’s best to get someone on the phone and ask specifically about what you can expect. If you only want to interact with a mover or inspector if they’re wearing a mask, let the company know. More than likely, they will be happy to earn your business and honor any requests you have to help keep everyone safe.

Bottom line, moving might look a little different than it did a year ago, but it’s still completely doable and can still be an enjoyable process. 

Buying or selling a home is a major life milestone! So if it’s a dream of yours to be a homeowner or to sell your home to work towards something bigger, don’t let COVID-19 squash your house goals. Take reasonable precautions, be vocal about what you are and are not comfortable with, plan ahead, and your next move will be as smooth as can be.

Ally Denton is a local Realtor who would totally move right now, but only if the house has a pool. She writes about real estate and home ownership on her website, Indy Home Guide

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