Article by TSW Properties LLC WeBuyHouseSTL.com or 314-226-2779
So you had plans to sell your home this past spring of 2020. Then Covid-19 hit the U.S. and the rest of the world like a ton of bricks. Now you’re wrestling with a really tough decision: whether to move forward with selling that house, when is that best time, or to wait forever. Forever?
Some would-be sellers are frozen in place, hedging their bets and hoping the situation improves in the coming months. But not every seller has the luxury to take a wait-and-see approach without making serious trade-offs. Some people may be driven by a job relocation, a growing family, or another distinct life changing event.
Although selling a home in 2020 and beyond is going to look a lot different than it used to, people haven’t stopped selling houses altogether. And considering that the lingering effects of the virus will last into 2021 and beyond, we can’t expect an “all clear” signal anytime soon for putting out that “for sale” sign.
How to Sell Your House amidst a COVID lockdown
Need to sell during coronavirus? We’ve put together this stress-free guide to help you navigate each step of the home-selling process, filled with advice from one of the area’s top realtors Claire Gardner.
‘Real estate is sticky:’ Act before property values drop
“If I’m a seller and I know I need to sell in the next two years, I am going to get my home sold NOW while it’s a seller’s market. It’s not like the stock market that goes up 1,200 points one day and down 2,000 the next day. It takes a while for us to see the depreciation aspect, and it takes a while to get it going on the appreciation side again as well.”
You might assume that the coronavirus would impact all markets, but housing is more stable, at least in the short term. Even after COVID-19, a severe supply shortage has propped up home prices for the time being. In March, the number of homes for sale declined 15.7% compared to March 2019, yet the national median listing price grew 3.8%.
The National Association of Realtors, in a recently released statement, said over 1 million homeowners are at least 30 days behind and missing payments so the supply shortage may last only as long as the government keeps the foreclosure moratorium in place.
According to Claire Gardner, Broker for Keller Williams Chesterfield, “There’s definitely something to be said for now being a unique — and potentially fleeting — window of opportunity for sellers. I’ve been tracking our own home showings to see what’s going to happen; I really expected to see a significant slowdown because of Covid-19, but so far showings seem stable, houses are selling faster, yet the inventory has dropped.”
The economic future of home sales in the U.S. looks increasingly bleak with the moratorium being lifted. If you wait to list until the moratorium posts, you risk your home value declining as the housing market buckles under pressure from so many foreclosed houses hitting the market like they did in 2009 where property values dropped in some areas as much as 30% seemingly overnight, and from a recession as the stimulus package ends, and severe job losses across the country due to many businesses closing permanently.
Some homes may be easier to sell than others in this environment
Before you list, ask your real estate agent how likely your home is to sell in this unusual market. Some properties fare a better chance of selling than others based on factors like:
In St .Louis where the median priced home is worth around $180,000, certain properties are still moving fast as in 30 days or less.
“If it’s a beautiful home at a medium price point in your area and it’s priced competitively and it’s staged well, or clean, it’s going to sell at this time, for 100% of list.
“Even as of September we had multiple offer situations on any home that’s under $200,000. Homes in that $200,000 to $400,000 price range, it’s still a great market, but it’s just going to take a little bit longer because people are being a little more conscientious.”
Real estate analysts predict that COVID-19 will most negatively impact the luxury housing market. Buyers at higher price points who have large holdings in the equity markets may postpone large real estate transactions as they wait for stocks to recover from the market plunge.
Online presence and marketability
According to recent real estate information in St. Louis, almost 85% of agents have shut down open houses and 25% are restricting or eliminating physical showings. That means your home must shine in online listing photos and videos to convince buyers to leave their house to view it in-person.
Vacant vs. Occupied
Your property type also may impact your ability to sell at this time. Vacant properties are receiving the most attention due to ease of viewing while tenant occupied homes continue to prove to be the most difficult to sell.
“Tenant occupied is almost impossible because the tenants not only have tenant rights, they don’t want people coming through their house” I understand that and we don’t allow it. Right now, we list anything that is tenant occupied as “offer subject to interior inspection.”
With “offer subject to interior inspection,” only buyers who make an offer on the property are permitted to view it in-person – if their Offer is accepted by the Seller. Usually in this instance buyers will include a contingency that allows them to back out of the deal if they don’t like what they see upon inspection. While more common to see for tenant-occupied properties, owner-occupied homes may be listed as “offer subject to inspection as well.
Your next steps should weigh into your decision
Sellers who have already secured their next home, or have an immediate need to sell (job relocation, financial reasons, etc.) to move forward with their home sale have options. If you’re still figuring out your future housing situation, consider how COVID-19 affects your options.
Considerations if you plan to buy:
· Mortgage approval: As a homeowner, so long as you can keep making your mortgage payments, no one is probably going to pop in and audit your finances. However, if you sell your home and buy a new one, a mortgage lender is going to review your employment situation, income sources, credit, and debt. In response to COVID-19’s impact on the economy and employment, lenders are raising the criteria for mortgage approval, requiring higher credit scores and loan-to-value ratios.
· Your income security: Due to COVID-19 related job losses, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed to the highest level since 1940. Consider how an unexpected job loss may reduce your household income — this may impact your ability to qualify for a loan or make mortgage payments.
· Your back-up plan: Create a temporary housing plan in case it takes longer than anticipated to purchase your next home. You may need to rule out previous alternatives such as living with adult or elderly parents if they are at higher risk for severe illness.
Can you handle strangers coming through?
While showings can be limited to serious buyers with mortgage pre-approvals or even offers on the table, many buyers will want to see the house in person before committing to a purchase. Team up with your agent to disinfect and clean your home before and after people visit to keep everyone involved safe.
Clean your home to your level of comfort. At a minimum, you should disinfect door handles, cabinet drawers, bathrooms, and any other points of contact before and after people come through. Depending on your area and real estate agent’s advice, you may need to leave your home for private showings, the home inspection, and the home appraisal to limit possible contact.
While disinfecting surfaces and adhering to social distancing practices reduces your household’s risk of coming into contact with the COVID-19 virus, it’s possible it doesn’t eliminate the risk entirely.
If any member of your household displays symptoms or falls ill during your home sale, disclose this information with your real estate agent immediately and postpone any visitations until the infected person meets the Center for Disease Control’s recovery standards
P.S. If you need to sell your home right now and don’t want to run the risk of showing it amidst this health crisis, you can get a fair cash offer and Close when it’s convenient for you by calling TSW Properties L.L.C. 314-226-2779 or visiting:
Prefer to avoid showings entirely?
Sell your house fast with TSW Properties 314-226-2779 — no contact necessary – ask for Terry.
Selling now could take longer than normal
Restrictions around COVID-19 may slow certain phases of the home selling process. At least 30%-35% of the deals that we Closed had extensions on them. If you need to sell your house fast contact Terry Woolverton with TSW Properties LLC at 314-226-2779. Or visit his website at www.webuyhousestl.com
Listing your home now requires extra patience and understanding in the face of inevitable delays. Here are a few examples of steps that may take longer in the present circumstances:
· Finding a buyer: If your market activity is slowing due to COVID-19 related concerns, there may be fewer buyers actively looking for homes.
· Clearing title and recording the deed: In St.Louis County where government recording offices are deemed non-essential, many offices allow electronic filings. However, ultimately a staff member must process the files so there may be a delay because the office is understaffed.
· Receiving your buyer’s mortgage approval: With title companies, notaries, and appraisers working remotely in the St. Louis region the timeline for Closing a loan may stretch longer than average. Additionally, some lenders are currently overwhelmed by refinancing requests due to low but shifting mortgage rates, leading to longer approval times.
Your contract may include a coronavirus clause
If you sell your home during the COVID-19 pandemic, your contract may include a coronavirus clause that permits closing extensions and home sale cancellations without legal or financial repercussions. For sellers, this means your buyer may leave the deal without losing their earnest money.
“I think it’s really important that sellers understand that at any time these people could back out of this transaction.”
To protect your best interests, you can negotiate in what scenarios the buyer keeps their earnest money. For instance, you can amend the coronavirus clause to state that the buyer must forfeit their earnest money if they withdraw their offer with no reasonable cause. Additionally, you can negotiate to set deadline extensions for specific dates to keep the sale on track to close.
Few will judge if your home sits on the market
In normal circumstances, homes that sit on the market above an average number of days are at a disadvantage. Homes with a high days on market count can carry a stigma — buyers wonder if the property has something wrong with it or if it’s priced incorrectly. Typically, even in this market, for the median sale priced house of $180,000 if on the market more than 100 days you are at least 10% overpriced.
However, buyers’ agents are considerate of COVID-19’s impact on the market so they are unlikely to look down upon homes taking longer to sell. Some MLS’s are even suspending or pausing the accumulation of days on market in order to accommodate for this slower period, but not in St. Louis.
You can always change your mind
If you list your home and then are unable to follow through with the sale due to an illness, job loss, or other reason, you can cancel the transaction without repercussions so long as you include a COVID-19 clause in the listing contract and sale contract.
To avoid any extra charges from your real estate, review your listing agreement carefully to see if they charge a fee for taking your home off the market early. You can negotiate your agent’s standard agreement to reduce the length of the contract or waive fees.
Get an expert’s opinion — and go from there
Selling your home during COVID-19 is a personal decision. Spend some time considering how relevant financial variables, health concerns, and local government regulations will impact your home sale process.
For the best insight on how COVID-19 is affecting your local real estate market, reach out to Claire Gardner 314-680-1978.
Claire tracks daily updates and evolving COVID-19 regulations. She can help you determine whether your home is marketable at this time, answer any questions you may have, and accommodate any special needs such as performing a contactless home assessment.