Our Virtual Reality in the COVID-19 Era

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Real Estate

Buying or selling a home can be stressful even under ordinary circumstances. Unfortunately, the current state of the world is far from ordinary. The housing market is feeling the crunch, as fewer buyers want to get out and shop for a home, and fewer sellers want to take a risk with selling. This isn’t to say that nobody’s buying and selling, of course; the market is just going through some changes.

It also does not mean that we are heading for a recession. We are in short supply and in the under $1M category in OC buyer's demand still outweighs supply. If anything, as we phase back into our "normal" lives the housing market should go from a hot seller's market to more of a balanced market, which is good for both buyers and sellers.

One of the biggest changes today revolves around how real estate professionals are handling social isolation and social distancing. If you’re thinking of selling, or are in the market to buy, here are a few new “rules” to keep in mind when entering the real estate fray in the era of self-isolation.

Increasing Online Presence

One of the big changes to the real estate process is an increased dependence on online resources instead of in-person shopping. This includes high quality pictures and videos of properties being posted online, which had become the standard for all price points. We at L3 are taking things even further than this. Recorded virtual tours, online conferences to allow buyers to ask questions about the property, and even livestream walkthroughs showing the property are all increasingly popular options to supplement or even replace in-person showings and conferences. In addition to this, we are pros at promoting our properties to a larger qualified audience via social media so you have more visibility to the right potential buyers.

Virtual Staging

Vacant homes can be made more appealing online by adding virtual staging. Not only is this an effective tool so that buyers can see what the home would look like with furnishings, but it is also less costly than actually staging a home.

Fewer Open Houses

Open houses were once a popular way to show off a property to many potential buyers, but in the current crisis these events are a big no-no. In California, open houses aren’t even allowed. Online “virtual open house” conferences are one option to adapt to this, letting multiple potential buyers come together on Zoom or a similar video conference service at the same time to get a better feel for the property that’s being sold.

More One-on-One Time

In many cases, private showings are taking the place of an open house and are preferred so that the buyer can ask specific questions about the property directly with the listing agent.

As convenient as online access and virtual tours are during the current isolation period, few if any buyers would sign on the dotted line without getting a chance to see a property in person.

To accommodate this, we are meeting with potential buyers who are pre-qualified and/or have presented an offer by appointment only. This lets a potential buyer get a good look at the property in question while also restricting the size of the meeting as much as possible. Many of these appointments are made with the understanding that if any participant feels the least bit under the weather on the day of the meet-up, then it will need to be rescheduled for another time.

Respecting Social Distancing

Even when buyers and sellers do meet up, the process is usually a little different than it used to be. Social distancing rules are respected, meaning that everyone involved should stay at least six feet apart at all times to prevent potential infection. Wearing masks, gloves and booties is preferred and sometimes required upon entry. We also have a document that each person entering the property must sign stating that they assume the risk of contracting the virus while on the property.

Discussions about the property and general Q&As are more likely to occur outdoors in the open air, and any greetings or introductions skip out on traditional handshakes. We also go through and open all of the doors and windows to both maximize airflow and to allow interested buyers access to the entire house without having to touch doorknobs or other surfaces in order to see inside.

Home Sanitization

As a listing agent, we also ensure that the properties we show are completely sanitized on a regular basis. All homes that are vacant are sanitized and deep cleaned. All surfaces and doorknobs are wiped down after each showing. Homes that are occupied are cleaned as permitted by the seller and we have recommendations and services that we can provide to help the seller do just that.

Home Inspection

To make it easier on prospective buyers we suggest that all sellers conduct a home inspection prior to listing their home. By doing this, the seller can make small repairs and choose whether or not to make larger repairs that may or may not affect the value of their home. This also usually helps the buyer see that the seller has pride in their home and maintains their home which gives them less cause to be concerned about potential repairs since the seller has already thought about it.This usually results in a quicker sale.

Closing Remotely
Remote closing negotiations are becoming much more common, taking advantage of video conferencing to bring everyone together without actually having to be in the same room. There may be some instances where people have to meet up to actually sign paperwork, but digital signing is more common because it removes that point of contact. Mobile notaries are available to allow buyers to sign in the comfort of their own front yard to limit exposure. Keys can be delivered to the front door and social distancing can still take place.

Although there are some changes to how we conduct business, we are doing our best to keep our client's health and safety at the forefront while helping them manage their most valuable investment, their home.