Ask Val: Real Estate In The Time Of COVID-19

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Val Sotillo, Northern Virginia-based Realtor and Falls Church resident. Please submit your questions to her via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How has COVID-19 affected our real estate market so far?

Answer: I hope this column finds all of you healthy and safe. Many people who had planned to or needed to buy or sell their home this year are struggling with that decision during the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While I would like to give a straightforward answer, no one knows what is going to happen next because we’ve never been here before. All I can do is offer my perspective on what is happening right now.

What Is Happening In Our Market

As of today, real estate is included as an essential business, so realtors can continue to practice and assist in transactions. However, this is not “business as usual,” including the requirements that social distancing and preventive measures are essentially mandated.

Other service providers like lenders and title companies, are continuing their business operations. Many banks are going to remote and drive-through only operations. Title companies are likely taking precautionary measures as well and they might attempt to employ alternate procedures using mail, electronic means and/or a combination of these to meet their legal requirements.

Combining the reactions of my clients and clients of other local agents I’ve spoken with over the last few days, it seems that most buyers are staying the course with their purchase. This is a period of uncertainty, so financial situations are changing by the minute. While some might elect to sit it out, others will be looking for opportunities to take advantage of low interest rates.

I’ve been closely monitoring the Tysons market, and the number of new listings in the past weeks has not yet changed that much. Within 5 miles from Tysons, there were 113 new listings in the first week of March, 127 on the second week, and 100 new listings on the week of March 16 to the 22.

However, the graphic below provided by ShowingTime indicates the number of showings in Virginia has significantly dropped in the past week.

The New COVID-19 Addendum

On March 19, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR) approved the COVID-19 Addendum in response to the rapidly evolving pandemic. This Addendum can be used during or after contract ratification, and can be used by buyer and/or seller to extend deadlines and the Settlement Date as many times as the parties agree during the transaction for reasons due to COVID-19.

This addendum will excuse buyer and/or seller performance when the ability to do so is impossible due to events beyond their reasonable control. For example: seller tests positive for COVID-19 and has to be quarantined in the property, or courts, appraisers and title companies shut down.

Helpful Tips: For Sellers

A good realtor should have the tools to market your property while minimizing risk.

  • Taking into consideration the potential risk of having people view your property in person, selling might be safer if your property is unoccupied. Also, it’s generally a good idea to vacate your home while agents are showing it to prospective buyers (this is always true).
  • Open Houses now are virtual so there’s no need to have groups of people over. Your agent streams the Open House online and answers any questions that potential buyers may have.
  • A virtual tour is where the listing agent uploads a prerecorded tour of the property. There is no interaction with any person being shown, live or electronically. Virtual tours include, but are not limited to photos, video walk-throughs, 360/VR views and interactive floor plans so buyers can have all details of the property without having to come in.
  • Help set up a healthier environment by providing gloves, shoe covers and sanitizing wipes to any prospective buyer that needs to physically see the property. Have all lights on, all room and cabinet doors open before their arrival and place notes throughout the property requesting buyers to avoid touching any surface.

Helpful Tips: For Buyers

  • Your agent can provide virtual showings via FaceTime, Skype, etc. to conduct a real-time interactive showing of the property.
  • If you need to be physically present to view the property, avoid touching any surfaces and have with you gloves and hand sanitizer.
  • If any other professional, such as appraisers and inspectors still have a job to do that requires their being present at the property, it is possible that they might request special accommodations. An appraiser may be practicing social distancing and request that they be allowed to work without a buyer’s agent nearby.

I will be closely monitoring the market changes and I will keep you updated. The main goal is to keep clients, realtors and the whole community safe. Buyers and sellers need to make the best decision for themselves to take all steps to be safe and determine when the best moment to move forward with a real estate transaction is. Stay up-to-date on the latest guidance and rules from the government and do your part not to spread this disease

I am continuously working with my Broker, colleagues, clients, title companies and other service providers to reasonably and safely navigate the unknown.

If you’d like more information, or would like a question answered in my column, please reach out to [email protected]. I hope to hear from you soon.

Val Sotillo is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite #10C Arlington, VA 22203, 703-390-9460.

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