Buying a home? How the experience is changing through COVID-19

Governor Gretchen Whitmer re-opened real estate in Michigan this week but there's no question about it - buying and selling a home will be very different this spring and summer, and perhaps for the foreseeable future.

"Amazingly, the market is actually doing quite well. When we were going into the season, we usually kick off about mid-March and things were heating up and we had a very good winter. We were expecting to just go gangbusters," said Lisa Nederlander, Assoc. Broker with Max Broock Realty. But then, COVID-10 hit and, of course, life as we knew it changed.

But Gov. Whitmer is now allowing the real estate sector to re-engage, but home buyers and sellers will see plenty of changes. Those include: 

  • Showing by appointment only
  • Maximum of four people
  • Social distancing rules apply
  • Landlords cannot show unit until tenant vacates

"We are not allowed to have any sort of public open houses, we can only do things by appointment," Nederlander said. "There are only allowed to be four people on premises at a time. That would mean I would be one of them and three others could join."

Even before we ever heard of the coronavirus, realtors were using drones and eye-catching videos to showcase houses on the market. Everything from starter homes to multi-million dollar listings was getting the big treatment. And now with COVID-19 precautions, these visual marketing tools are more essential than ever.

"If the sellers are concerned about too many people coming into the house back and forth, they can make their own videos with their phones now and we can use some of those. We've been doing that during the stay-at-home order. But we also have amazing professionals who come in and make beautiful footage. We can also provide floor plans of the homes and that's something that hasn't happened so much in Michigan.

"What we're going to be doing is asking the sellers to really prepare the house, and the idea behind that is to make sure there's as limited touching of any surfaces in the home as much as possible. So we ask them to pull the blinds; we ask them to open the doors to the rooms and closets; we ask them to turn on all the lights; and then when we leave the house really the only thing that has to happen is that I as the agent would touch the door handle.

"I will be bringing people masks, hand sanitizer, booties, gloves if they don't have their own and sellers will be able to specify exactly how they want showings to be done."

If there's anything we've learned during this stay-at-home order, it's that home has never been more important.

Nederlander says many have been refinancing right now she would absolutely recommend that t you, too, if you aren't planning to sell anytime soon because interest rates are low. 

"I've had buyers who have changed what their requirements are and I think part of that is coming from the fact that people have been home so much and they expect to stay home much more so than they did a few months ago, so people are going to make wiser choices now and not look at their house as something they'll going to be in for a few years necessarily and then move on." 

Something else to keep in mind if you are buying or selling a home - you likely will be asked to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of COVID-19. This protects all parties from liability, including the realtor. 

Systems will be in place too to help mitigate contact or exposure at the closing table.