How Boston real estate sales are adapting to COVID-19: week 4

For sellers who need to sell, buyers are ready and waiting

It’s week four of the Boston area’s stay-at-home advisory. And while the high spring season has largely paused due to physical distancing measures, the City of Boston has officially deemed home buying and selling services as essential. 

If a seller needs to sell right now, there’s a market of ready and willing buyers––and professional services––prepared to make that happen. Newly listed homes around Boston continue to go under contract, quickly and competitively. These markets are persistent. 

Fundamentally, the current lull in spring season activity is not (yet) an issue of economics, but one of limited access due to the public health crisis. At this stage, we can anticipate that an eventual return to daily life will bring a surge in home sales from the pent-up buyer demand––given Boston’s very limited inventory and remarkably low interest rates. However, if we remain housebound into the summer, then many homebuyers’ timetables may change. 

With the Massachusetts COVID-19 peak predicted for mid-April, we’ll likely know more in June about how the market is adjusting overall. 

In the meantime, the way that sellers and their agents are providing access to their homes has continued to evolve––and video has figured significantly in how we’re adapting. 

Here’s how sellers, buyers, and real estate professionals are improvising:

Video and virtual tours

Real estate agents and photographers are creating pre-recorded video tours. If a seller doesn’t feel comfortable having a photographer in their home, or vice versa, numerous apps allow agents to create walk-through videos using their phones.

In many cases, initial showings are being conducted by FaceTime, WhatsApp and Zoom, with the understanding that a buyer can physically tour the property if their offer is accepted. To protect against Zoom “bombing,” some agents are now requiring prospective buyers to pre-register. Facebook and Instagram Live as well as Zoom allow agents to conduct open houses and respond to group questions in real time.

Providing physical access

For in-person showings, precautions to avoid interaction between sellers, agents and buyers include:

  • Ahead of granting physical access, some listing agents requiring visitors to sign disclosures about their health and recent travel
  • Sellers turning on all lights and leaving doors and cabinets open
  • Sellers agents may leave a key on site with guidelines for access
  • Showings limited to one to three people at a time
  • Buyers agents arriving ahead of their clients to preview the property with booties and gloves, then waiting outside while their clients tour the home
  • Visitors continue to be instructed to wash and/or sanitize hands upon arrival and departure, and to remove shoes upon entering the home

For home owners who in the midst of the crisis need to sell their home, there are prospective buyers ready to collaborate. 

Part two, coming soon: we’ll share more about how our real estate partners––from home inspectors to attorneys––are adapting procedures so that buyers and sellers can close.