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Buying and Selling Your Home During the Covid-19 Pandemic: Your Top Questions Answered

  Your Top Questions Answered

The spread of COVID-19 has created uncharted territory for our country in many ways including buying and selling homes. I’ve received many questions from clients, friends and others about how to navigate buying or selling their property in Wisconsin during this challenging time. As I write this, Wisconsin is under a Stay-at-Home order.

One of the most important things to remember is that banks, real estate companies and title companies are considered essential businesses and will not close during this time. Many real estate functions can be completed electronically without in-person interaction, with the exception of home inspections, in-person viewings and closings, as of today.  

I will do my best to anticipate and answer all your questions and concerns in the following Q and A. Please know you can reach out to me at any time with questions.

Here are the top questions I’m being asked about residential real estate in Southeast Wisconsin during Covid–19:

1. Are you listing homes?

Yes, we are listing (and selling) quite a few homes currently. This may be contrary to what many may think. However, inventory is still very low, as are interest rates, and there are people who need to buy. It may be the best last opportunity this year to sell your home at top dollar considering what may occur as we rebuild after this crisis. The major consideration for Sellers is if they will allow showings in their home. It can pose a big health risk. For anyone with underlying health issues, I would say this is not the right time to list your home and I would suggest waiting until the fall.

2. Are you showing houses?

Yes, we are showing our clients homes and taking strict safety precautions including following the CDC Guidelines. The following disclaimer is displayed all our listed properties:

“All showings require two-hour notice. Our company has established a policy to follow the CDC Guidelines to help minimize the risk of exposure to the virus COVID-19. Please use your judgement and do not engage in showings if you are displaying any signs/symptoms of sickness. Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer will be available during your showing. Please use them to wipe down any surfaces that were touched and remove your shoes outside before entering the home. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated!”

The good news for Sellers is that are no “casual shoppers” at this time. The showings we are conducting are selective as they are with Buyers who seriously need a home now:

  • They are pre-approved
  • They must buy due to: 
    • A recently sold home
    • A relocation to the Milwaukee area

3. What is the proper etiquette for viewing a home in-person?

  • View the property thoroughly online before scheduling your visit. The properties we list are fully photographed and we offer 3D tours and often house plans.
  • Do not bring children to showings.
  • Leave your shoes outside the home.
  • As much as we love handshakes, we’re all about the elbow or fist bump these days.
  • Wear gloves inside the home. If you need to touch surfaces or open closets, wipe down the surfaces with Clorox or Lysol wipes (you’ll find them available in each of our client’s homes).
  • Give prompt feedback to the Listing Agent and the Seller so the Seller can return home as soon as you’ve completed your tour. A courtesy text when finished is always good etiquette.  
  • And most importantly, if you are not feeling well, do not go on viewings.

4. Are you receiving offers?

Yes, as of this writing, our most recent accepted offer was on March 22, 2020 on a Whitefish Bay home. Homes are selling! Remember, interest rates are very low and inventory is very scarce right now.

We are selling our inventory through the 3D Video Tours and the Aerial Tours on our website.

Two weeks ago, we sold a wonderful property in Whitefish Bay for $30,000 over asking price, site-unseen.  The Buyer viewed every aspect of the home using the 3D video tour feature on our website. The home will sell for one of the highest prices per-square-foot in Whitefish Bay. The buyer said without the video tour they would not have been comfortable making the offer. Their kids loved the “doll house” feature and could view the home from the safety of their couch. These video tours are the single best feature I have implemented for our business at Powers Realty Group. The video tours in the face of COVID-19 allow us to continue to sell homes for our Sellers despite these restrictive conditions. The videos are a built-in contingency plan for every listed Powers Realty Group property even if we go into lock down.

5. Are homes still closing on time?

Yes, houses are closing on time as of today. Banks and title companies are considered essential businesses, and if we go into a “lock down,” the likelihood of your home still closing is very high. However, you should potentially plan for delays in processing. Banks, at the time of this blog, are overwhelmed and behind due to the interest rate drop. Refinancing and new mortgages are taking more time than usual right now.

6. Are offices still open for closings?

Some are and some are not. Real estate offices, title companies, and banks are limiting who attends the closing and some have closed their offices for closings completely to comply with the CDC Guidelines of Social Distancing.  We are asking that most sellers pre-sign. Title companies are asking real estate agents not to attend the closings to reduce the number of human interactions. It’s typical to limit closings to the Buyers and the title company.

7. Can we close our property electronically?

As of March 18, it will most likely depend on the lender. The State of Wisconsin is working quickly to simplify this process so we can close electronically.  In a bold move, Governor Tony Evers signed the remote online notarization (RON) marketplace bill on March 2, meaning AB 293 will go into effect for 82,000 Wisconsin notaries beginning June 1, 2020, making it one step closer to possibly close on a property electronically. This bill will change our real estate transactions and how we close properties going forward - a necessary move for the convenience of our buyers and sellers.

NEW UPDATE as of 3-20-2020. https://www.wra.org/coronavirus/remotenotary/

 8. What should I do if I need to list my home?

If you need to sell your home, list it knowing that in-person showings will be sparse and it may take more time. We will do everything we can to help market your home in this challenging environment including helping prospective buyers see your home through great photography, online video tours and aerial footage. If you can wait until the country stabilizes, do it - this is the best advice I can give Sellers at this time. While you are waiting, tackle as many home projects as you can to help improve the way your home will show when you are ready. If you must leave for a job transfer or other reasons, you may want to think about renting your home in the short term, instead of selling.

9. What should I do if I need to buy a home?

Do your homework! View all the online property materials first. Make sure you have a subscription to the MLS through a local realtor so you can access all documents, tax records, photos, videos, etc. Buyer Agency relationships are critical in a changing market. You may want to consider a fiduciary relationship with your agent to protect your best interests during this uncertain time. Realtors who have experience will be your best option. Realtors who practiced during financial downturns will have insights to help you in your purchase during this turbulent environment. Choose wisely, seek experienced agents.

10. What happens during this State of Wisconsin Safer-at-Home (also known as Shelter-in-Place) status?

  • Real Estate is considered an Essential Business in the State of Wisconsin, and we will follow CDC Guidelines, taking all precautions and ensuring our buyers and sellers are aware of those guidelines.
  • In-person showings can still occur. We will play it by ear on meeting in person. Where we can, we will meet online through services such as Skype.
  • Virtual showings continue. We are currently effectively selling homes using video tours on our website.
  • Closings are still occurring.
  • Final walk-throughs may be limited to the agent conducting a FaceTime walk-through for the buyer prior to closing.
  • For those properties that have accepted offers, we will plan to close per the offer to purchase.
  • We are using social media as a tool for the most up-to-date information on SE Wisconsin real estate. Powers Realty Group posts relevant content to COVID-19 and your local real estate at least twice daily on Facebook  and once daily on LinkedIn.

 11. What happens if the State of Wisconsin goes on Lockdown?

  • The primary difference between Safer-at-Home and Lockdown status is that in-person showings will most likely stop if the State of Wisconsin goes on lockdown.
  • There would still be virtual showings, and we will continue to sell homes through video tours on our website.
  • Closings will still occur.
  • Final walk-throughs may be limited to the agent doing a FaceTime walk-through for the Buyer prior to closing.
  • It’s likely in-person meetings will be prohibited, and that online meetings, such as Skype, will occur.
  • Those properties that have accepted offers will plan to close per the offer to purchase.
  • We will continue to use social media to share the most up-to-date information on real estate. Powers Realty Group posts relevant content to COVID-19 and local real estate at least twice daily on Facebook and once daily on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Powers Realty Group is a distinctive boutique real estate broker focused on the needs of customers delivering exceptional results. We are the trusted local experts. Call us today about buying or selling your home.

Call Suzanne Powers