Selling a home is a move people generally plan years in advance, and 2020 was no different. For many homeowners, the hot real estate market of spring and summer of 2020 was going to be the season they put their homes up for sale. And then came the coronavirus — and the world turned upside down. With people struggling just to get by financially, and health and safety paramount, selling a home seemed like a dream from another lifetime. Records of home sales in the U.S. from the beginning of the outbreak reflect these feelings, with a sharp decline of 21% in total homes sold in March, and another decrease of 17.8% in April, according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Now, though, the U.S. real estate market is looking very different. As the economy limps toward a recovery, many buyers are searching for a new place to call home and the housing market is thriving. In fact, national home sales climbed a record 20.7 percent in June compared with home sales from a year ago, global pandemic notwithstanding.
One crucial factor driving the surge in home sales is the declining mortgage rates. In the beginning of March, mortgage rates plunged to a record low of 3.13 percent. Since then, the market has seen several smaller increases and decreases. On Aug. 6, history was made when the national average mortgage rate hit 2.88%, the lowest rate on record of all time.
Despite the flourishing housing market, many homeowners who’ve planned to sell their homes this year are still reluctant to take that leap. And it’s no wonder, with restrictions still in place and so much uncertainty still surrounding the economy.
If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, you still can. Here’s all you need to know about selling your house during the COVID-19 crisis.
Are you really ready to sell?
Before putting your home on the market, it’s important to consider all the variables involved in this step, and be sure it’s a financially responsible move. With the pandemic causing a slowdown of the economy and a likely recession, life circumstances you may have relied on, such as a steady job and salary, may not be dependable anymore. Before calling a real estate agent, it’s a good idea to review all the relevant numbers to be sure that selling your home now is in your best interest.
Stage your home to sell
Anyone selling their home knows they need to showcase it in the best possible light, and never has this been truer than now. With restrictions still in place in many states and lots of people stuck home in quarantine, many buyers will be doing their touring virtually. For sellers, this means that staging and photographing a home well is more important than ever.
Consider hiring a professional home-staging and photography service to truly present your home in the best way possible. If your furniture is shabby or your home is too cluttered to be attractively displayed, you can also invest in virtual staging software or hire a team of professional virtual stagers to help you update the furniture and clean out the clutter with just a few clicks. Either option can cost you upward of $75 an image, but the NAR report from 2019 shows that on average, sellers see about a 5% return on this investment.
Here are some general tips to follow when staging and photographing your home, as shared by Buddy Mountcastle, a real estate photographer based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:
- Clean up the outside. Curb appeal is the first selling point for any home. Make sure there are no weeds, overgrown grass or kids’ toys ruining the first impression of your home.
- Let the sunshine in. Aim to shoot mid-day. Scrub your windows clean, open the curtains and let the natural sunshine brighten up every room.
Undo the lived-in look. Remove all personal effects from your home before going camera-crazy. This includes stray shoes, family photos, piles of magazines, small kitchen appliances and more.
- Shoot from the right spot. When capturing a room on camera, try to get as much of the space in the frame. Aim to include three walls, which can mean shooting from the corner or doorway. It’s also important to shoot straight and from chest height so as not to distort the room.
To make it easier for buyers to view your home, you can post a virtual tour on your online listing, and offer the option of scheduling a live tour with an agent through FaceTime or Zoom.
Play it safe
If you will be allowing potential buyers into your home, don’t forget to play it safe. Set up a box of disposable masks, shoe covers and sanitizing wipes at the door for all visitors who will be tramping through your home. If you will be hosting an open house, it’s best to allow a limited number of people inside at a time to make social distancing possible.
Price it right
Fewer homeowners are putting their houses up for sale this year, but the pool of buyers is also smaller than usual. This means you won’t be able to jack up the price of your home for way more than it’s worth. Work with an agent to look at comparable home sales in the area and to determine a fair asking price. Also, as always, list a selling price a bit higher than your actual desired price to allow for negotiations.
Closing during COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic will likely affect every aspect of selling your home, up until the closing. With many workers in the home-selling industry, from professional home inspectors, to mortgage lenders, to movers working with a smaller team now, be prepared for various steps of the home-selling process to be delayed. It’s best to be patient and to anticipate that things may take longer than usual. This is especially true with lenders, as low mortgage rates are triggering a spike in refinance applications across the country and lenders are busier than ever.
COVID-19 has wrecked all sorts of plans, but selling your home does not have to be one of them. With some adjustments and altered expectations, you can successfully sell your home during the coronavirus pandemic.