COVID-19 has hit 2020 like a wrecking ball, slowly making its way across borders.
Social distancing has us all pressing pause, letting go of priorities in favour of time spent indoors, connected only though our screens. Alas, in the real estate market, even amid a global pandemic, there are still sellers who need to sell, and buyers who need to buy. Lucky for us, in this age of technological glory, real estate agents have access to some great solutions to ensure that processes remain safe, and transactions can continue to take place. This too will pass, and in the meantime, we can all use a little creativity to ensure that our brief pauses don’t turn into a full stop.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver is "strongly recommending" against its members holding open houses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the board, which has approximately 14,000 Metro Vancouver real estate agents as members, announced the recommendation Thursday. It has also suspended its rule requiring properties that are listed for sale to be made available for showings.
“Realtors want to do their part to help prevent the spread of illness in our communities and to meet the housing needs of residents in a responsible way,” said REBGV president Ashley Smith in a news release. “We’ve heard from some in the community who are unhappy that their realtors are not holding open houses. To those people, we ask for your understanding given the public health crisis we all face today.”
In its announcement, the REBGV urged anyone looking to buy or sell a home to "discuss COVID-19 preparedness with their realtor."
The board recommended that its members follow the instructions of health authorities for limiting the spread of the coronavirus, including staying home if you are sick or have recently returned from travel abroad, as well as washing hands regularly and practicing "social distancing." It also offered specific advice to buyers and sellers of real estate during the pandemic.
For sellers, the REBGV recommends taking "alternative approaches to open houses, such as virtual showings and other technology-based solutions." With social distancing requirements, it can be hard to sell a house these days.
We're recommending that everyone use hand sanitizer before the showing, wash your hands during the showing and then use disinfectant wipes after. For our seller clients, if at all possible, we are recommending that they leave interior doors and lights on before and after showings to limit be amount of touching that is going on in their house. When you get home disinfect all the door handles, the railings, the countertops etc.
The local real estate board is recommending that all agents follow the guidelines that Canada's Public Health Agencies have put in place until further notice.
For buyers, the board recommends limiting the number of people participating in a property viewing, sanitizing hands before and after the showing and avoiding touching doorknobs and other surfaces while inside the listed property.
So what does it all mean for Real Estate
Great News for Buyers?
Finally, a silver lining to COVID-19 mark on the markets: if financially possible, it can be a great time to buy a home with interest rates being the lowest we have seen.
In response to the viral outbreak, banks worldwide have been cutting interest rates. The Bank of Canada cut the interest rate for Canadians by a full percentage point earlier this month. As a result, prospective home buyers looking to get a mortgage can now expect to borrow at a decreased rate. With fixed term mortgage rates also on the decline, home buyers have the flexibility to borrow more and aim for a higher home price or get a better mortgage rate and have less expensive mortgage payments.
TAKE PROFESSIONAL ADVICE ON YOUR BORROWING REQUIREMENTS
So, with buyers in a good position to buy, how are real estate agents helping to make home sales happen, particularly in the wake of temporary social distancing?
Leverage Technology for Real Estate!
Big advances in technology have ignited a fundamental shift in the real estate industry, and it is now easier than ever to gain a wealth of knowledge about a home, condo, townhouse or any listing from the online listing alone.
Floor plans, detailed descriptions, panoramic pictures, and video tours allow the buyer to get a good feel for a home, before ever setting foot within the property. With a greater segment of the population glued to their screens during isolation measures, there could be a marked increase in recreational and serious buyers browsing the online marketplace. Agents will be ensuring more than ever that their online listings are as detailed and alluring as possible.
These tools will help the real estate market move online, at least until isolation measures have passed:
360 Virtual Video Tours
More agents are working with photographers specializing in 360 home video tours as a way to create an immersive experience for the home buyer.
By helping to bring the property listing to life, buyers like that they can get a feel for the space without being there. A good virtual video tour is navigable, interactive, and controlled by the viewer. The resolution should be high, and the control tools should be intuitive. The ultimate goal is to replicate the experience of walking through each room, in person. During COVID-19, 360-home tours are a recommended alternative to an open house.
Ditching the Paperwork
We may be hoarding toilet paper supplies, but we can a least give the printer paper a rest by moving to electronic signing methods once you’re ready to sign on the bottom line.
There are a number of downloadable apps available, allowing signatories to sign a PDF or word document directly through your phone or tablet. Many of which real estate agents are already using to facilitate real estate deals. Limited contact, limited paper. Online signing methods can be encrypted with a tamper-evident seal and audit trail. This ensures the legality of the signed documents and allows you and your agent to view what was signed, and when.
While face-to-face contact is challenged during the period of social distancing, there are other ways to maintain a personal connection with your agent. Video calling tools such as FaceTime and WhatsApp, can help mimic a meeting with your agent more effectively than a phone call, and can also prove to be useful if you wish to view aspects of a property not shown through the listing.
Above all, it’s important that you’re taking precautions to ensure your personal safety, and the safety of others during your home search. And remember that “necessity is the mother of invention”; perhaps some of these temporary adjustments will prove to be viable long-term solutions for the real estate industry. In the meantime, with a little bit of creativity, real estate agents can maintain their commitments to their clients, in a way that keeps all of our communities safe.