The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed how we are buying and selling homes in Santa Barbara and nationwide. Open houses are canceled for now, but buyers still want to view a home in person before making an offer. Sellers, however, worry about virus exposure and having strangers in their homes. Showings are still happening and real estate agents like myself are involved are taking extra steps to protect both sellers and buyers. This is not a time for ‘looky-loos’. Sellers are limiting in-person showings only to buyers with loan pre-qualification letters from their lenders and or proof of funds showing adequate funds for down payments or full purchase of the home. Virtual home tours are now the norm and a key component of selling and marketing a home during the Coronavirus. Along with a pre-qualification, potential buyers need to have viewed the virtual home tour and the all seller’s property disclosure statements before being allowed to tour a home.
Agents like myself have ‘showing kits’ that contain sanitizer, face masks and gloves for people to use during showings. Booties were once required, but that requirement was recently lifted, but sellers do have an option to require it. Before a home showing, the sellers clean and disinfect high-touch areas, like countertops and doorknobs and leave lights on and doors, closets, and cabinets open to limit what visitors need to touch. There is also signage that is required at the door and COVID notifications forms that must be signed prior to any showings.
Inspections and appraisals may not need in-person contact
Home sellers usually have to allow the homebuyer’s inspectors and appraisers into their homes in order for a real estate transaction to move forward. But in these COVID days, social distancing orders are allowing inspections and appraisals to be done with minimal contact. Inspectors are following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines with buyers and inspectors wearing masks and gloves, and wiping down everything with disinfectant wipes that they come in contact with. If the lender allows it, appraisals can be done by driving by the home, or viewing photos of the property, so the appraiser never has to set foot in the home. Some lenders require in person appraisals and appraisers are taking all the necessary precautions in protecting all parties involved.
Remote home closings are the new normal for buyers and sellers. Depending on the Title Company involved, ‘drive through’ closings are happening allowing a notary and signer to execute electronic documents while in different physical locations. The ability to close remotely also depends on the buyer’s lender and automation. Changes in this area is happening on a daily basis as we adjust in these pandemic times. If remote closing is possible, title companies prepare the required documents and mail, and then email or upload them to a secure portal. The title company verifies personal information and identification sometimes by video and the documents are signed electronically. Another option that is used in Santa Barbara most often is using a mobile notary, who travels to a buyer or seller’s home or workplace to complete the closing documents to limit in-person contact. Social distancing is also affecting in-person closings. With the challenges of appropriate COVID safety precautions closings are starting to take more time because people are limiting in-person contact. Because everyone in real estate transactions are trying to protect everyone involved, closing are taking longer than they have in the past.
Buying or selling a home in Santa Barbara during the pandemic is an adjustment for everyone and is ever changing. But know that collectively buyers, sellers, agents, and myself are working together to make transactions run as smoothly and as safely as possible.
Reach out, I am happy to discuss further! Stay safe!