We’ve written this Seller’s Guide to help you understand what to expect if you list your home for sale during coronavirus. 


Article By:  Neil O’Donnell

We’ve written this Seller’s Guide to help you understand what to expect if you list your home for sale during coronavirus.

Home Preparation

In a covid world, it’s still important to prep your home for sale, but you may not be able to do everything you had planned.

Keep the following home prep tips in mind:

Market conditions are unpredictable and you’ll need to weigh the benefits of completing your home prep list against the risks of waiting to list your home for sale. Nobody knows where the market (or the virus) is headed – however we know that these record high prices will only last so long.

Not all home service professionals are able to legally work in the current lockdown. Be ready for longer-than-usual wait times and potentially higher costs.

Safety protocols: Before hiring anyone, ask about their safety protocols, especially if you are still living in the home and are immunocompromised.

Focus on the most important fixes: this is probably not the best time to be undergoing big renovations due to delays and costs.

It’s still important to declutter: you may not be able to donate unwanted items as many organizations are not currently accepting donations, so make sure you have a Plan B.

Your home may need to be vacant: Many home services and contractors will require your home to be empty when they do their work, so make sure you have somewhere safe to go while they paint, re-grout the shower or clean.

Professional cleaning/disinfecting is a VERY important step in your home prep these days.

Talk to your Realtor ® – they’ll be able to guide you through what to do/what not to do.

Staging

You already know that most Buyers house-hunt online, but in a COVID-19 world, what Buyers see online takes on even greater importance. Making your home look its’ absolute best helps Buyers connect emotionally – and emotional Buyers buy houses.

Keep these staging tips in mind:

Good stagers have safety precautions in place, including proper use of personal protective equipment, cleaning/disinfecting protocols for furniture and accessories and restrictions and delays on re-using items in between homes.

Great stagers recognize how Buyer priorities have changed Dedicated work-from-home spaces, kid play/school areas, private outdoor living spaces, comfortable kitchens for home-cooked meals – they’ve taken on new meaning for today’s Buyers. Great stagers will transform your home to showcase how it can operate in a COVID-19 world.

Virtual staging Technology can help a property look staged in photos. Virtual staging involves essentially photoshopping furniture into the photos – but in our opinion, it isn’t nearly as valuable as real staging. Altered photos are prohibited from being posted in some areas (Toronto MLS is a big one), so most potential Buyers won’t see the virtually staged rooms. And if they do? They’re set up for disappointment when they see the home in person. You might think all the focus on Virtual is the way to go.  However, a disappointed buyer is either not going to bring an offer or if they do it won’t be as high as you may hope.

Be ready to wait: Not all stagers are working right now and the ones who are are busy, so you may have to wait longer than usual to schedule home staging.

Be careful if you hire a Realtor ® who moonlights as a Stager: Some real estate agents stage their clients’ homes themselves, but their usual tactics of buying items at Homesense or IKEA and leaving the price tags on/returning the items after the sale don’t work in the New Normal – and you probably don’t want them recycling their personal furniture in your home right now either.

Ask a lot of questions: Find out about the stager’s safety protocols and policies, any requirements for staging day (eg an empty and disinfected home).

Marketing

Coronavirus has changed the ways most companies market their products and services, and real estate is no exception. “Virtual” is quickly increasing vs “in-person” and everyone is trying to reduce their potential exposure by limiting the surfaces they touch and the number of people they congregate with.

Pre-COVID-19, the best agents were already embracing digital marketing on the web and have proven strategies to expose their listings to the right people. There’s a lot more to marketing a home than announcing it’s for sale on the MLS, and these days, you should expect, at a minimum:

  • Gorgeous HDR photography
  • 3-D walk-through tours and video
  • Floor plans
  • Beautifully-written property descriptions
  • Advertising on all the property search sites Buyers are using
  • Pricing Your Home During Coronavirus

It’s the first pandemic in 100 years, and economists and housing experts are in unchartered waters as they attempt to predict what will happen.  What we know with the huge spike in prices is that it won’t last and we expect it will only last as long as the fear of covid is strong.  Once everyone is vaccinated we expect the market to soften.

What do Realtor’s ® know about pricing and the market right now? We know:

  • The current market conditions and how much demand there was last week
  • The prices of homes recently sold in your neighbourhood (recently = the last few weeks)
  • How long it’s taking homes to sell at the various phases of the pandemic
  • If you have a property that would normally be harder to sell, this is the time to sell it.
  • The types of pricing strategies that are working right now (eg price for a bidding war/price above asking and negotiate/price at market value) and when to use them
  • Most importantly, we know that market value is the meeting point between what a Buyer is willing to pay, and how much a Seller is willing to accept.

What’s not helpful in pricing a home during coronavirus?  Pricing strategies that don’t account for current market realities or buyer.

When you list your home for sale these days, you’ll likely decide on the asking price and strategy the day before you list your home for sale. Things are changing that fast – and it’s that important to reflect what’s happening and get your price right. Hire an experienced agent who is on top of everything that’s happening in the market.

Safe Showings

In pre-COVID days, our goal was to get the most number of people to see your home in person. These days, safe sales mean minimizing the number of people in your home and maximizing the number of right Buyers who see it in person. To do it right, your agent will need to do 3 things:

Creatively find ways to let Buyers safely experience your home from the comfort of their home, virtually reproducing the experience they used to have during their first in-person showing or open house visit

Strategically screen potential Buyers to ensure only financially qualified, motivated and healthy individuals enter your home

Provide safe in-person showing experiences to encourage the right people to venture out and see it.

  1. The Virtual First Showing

The agent you hire to sell your house during this pandemic will need to provide gorgeous photos, 3-D walk-through tours, virtual showing tools and digital marketing to maximize the virtual eyeballs on your home. They’ll need to overload potential Buyers with information and we’ve been doing property stories for years scientifically designed to evoke emotion.

  1. Screening Potential Buyers

To ensure that only qualified buyers come into your home.  This way we limit any chance of exposure for you and your family while still maximizing the number of right people to see your beautiful home.

  1. Safe In-Person Showings

Most home Buyers won’t commit to spending hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars on a home without first seeing it for themselves; they want to see it, smell it, touch it; they want to experience the sights and sounds of the neighbourhood. Emotional connection plays a critical role in the home buying process – most of us have experienced the feeling of walking into a house and ‘just knowing it was the one’. Allowing Buyers to experience that feeling is still important.

Understandably, one of the top concerns of home Sellers these days is safety. How do you keep your family safe while showing and selling your home during the COVID pandemic?

Here are our top tips for safe showings:

  • If you can, find somewhere to stay while your home is for sale. Pack the kids and the pets and head to your parents’ house, a cottage or hotel. At a minimum, ensure that any high-risk members of the family are not home during the sale.
  • If you can’t move out, you can reduce some of that risk by leaving your home at least an hour before a scheduled showing and returning 1-2 hours later; spray all surfaces with disinfectant when you return; wash your hands with soap and avoid touching your face.
  • Minimize the number of surfaces the Buyers and their agents will touch: leave all the lights on, open all the doors (including closets), leave curtains open, open the door to the electrical panel and provide easy access to storage areas, garages and crawlspaces.
  • As always, lock away your valuables. Agents showing your home will need to remain physically distant from their clients and may not be able to watch what’s happening in the same way they used to.
  • Restrict the number of people seeing your home in person to just the Buyers who would be on the title – no kids, friends or family members. Fewer people in the home = less risk.
  • Don’t allow multiple groups of people through your home at the same time.

Pro Tip: It may be possible to list your home for sale without in-person Buyer showings at all, in advance of an offer. Some Buyers may be prepared to negotiate an offer with you, conditional on seeing it in person after the terms have been sorted. This strategy may not get you top dollar, but it will reduce the number of people seeing your home in person, and thus your risk. The success of this strategy depends on the current market conditions, the amount of demand for a home like yours in your neighbourhood and the ability of your agent to market and negotiate this unique situation.  It’s not for every property but we have done this and it can work.

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