The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the country and the economy since stay home orders have been issued to keep people home as much as possible. Throughout the country, businesses deemed nonessential have been temporarily closed to help prevent the spread of the virus. The real estate industry is considered essential — since people still need to be able to buy and sell their homes — but having open houses and in-person showings is no longer an option.
"It's absolutely different than anything I've seen in 20 years of real estate... [But] there are still certain reasons people need to sell or buy a home even (in) today's climate," says Cleveland Realtor Danielle Parent.
Realtors all over the country have set up virtual tours of homes, and many offer live tours through video calls, with the agent taking them through the home. Even appraisals and inspections are going as digital as possible; the buyers are watching the inspections through video calls, instead of in person. Some states have ruled that closings can now happen remotely, while others are sending notaries — who are masked and in gloves — to retrieve signatures for closing.
What To Do During A Virtual Tour
Since live video tours of homes are fairly uncharted waters, it can be overwhelming and confusing to do these tours; you may be unsure of what to ask your realtor as they take you through this digital tour. Before your tour, ask your agent if they have a copy of the floorplan that you can reference during the tour to help you with the layout of the home. You can also ask your agent to take you on a drive of the neighborhood since a big determining factor for homebuyers is often the feeling they get from the neighborhood.
During the tour itself, here are a few things you can ask your agent to do:
- Test the light switches
- Open and close the cupboards and drawers
- Listen for the noise levels
- Check for any odors
- Flush the toilets
- Open and close the curtains or blinds
- Open and close the windows
- Show you the kitchen appliances and mention if any look old or out of date
- Show where the natural light is coming from
- Show you the closet space
- Point out any features that might look different than the photos
- Tell you if there is anything to be concerned about, like signs of water damage
Issues With Virtual Tours
One problem that many have encountered is if there is not good service in the home that is being toured, the call may be continuously dropped, making it difficult to complete the tour. If you have a virtual tour, ask your agent what contingencies they may have for this. Sometimes it is as easy as asking the seller for their wifi password, but in some cases, the agent may need to record the walkthrough for you and send it when it is completed.
Another issue that has been coming up is that you cannot see the house in person, even if you choose to buy it. If you are buying a million-dollar home, you probably "are not going to make a big purchase without seeing it," says Frederick Warburg Peters, CEO of Warburg Realty. Some are willing to, but many people may not be, and the sellers may not be willing or able to wait until the buyer can see the house in person.
The real estate industry is doing its best to adapt to the current circumstances, but time will tell how effective making the entire process virtual will be.
Todd Wilkinson is the Founder and Owner of FonHome Realty. FonHome is a customer-centric brokerage where our clients are in control and our experienced agents are respected for providing the positive and exciting experience the real estate transaction should be. Todd is an accomplished real estate investor with an undergraduate degree in Financial Economics and a Masters’s degree in Business Administration. Todd has held senior management and executive-level positions with the world’s two largest retailers and a successful startup venture. Todd has served terms on the University of Arkansas Advisory Board and is actively involved with the St. Theresa School in Kenilworth. Todd opened his own brokerage after feeling underserved in his personal experiences with real estate transactions and wanted a firm whose mission was on serving the fiduciary responsibilities guaranteed to the Buyer and Seller. Contact Todd today for a free Comparable Market Analysis for your home or for advice on beginning your search for a new home at www.fonhomerealty.com.