COVID-19 has hit 2020 like a wrecking ball, slowly making its way across borders. Social distancing has us all pressing pause, letting go of priorities in favour of time spent indoors, connected only though our screens. Alas, in the real estate market, even amid a global pandemic, there are still sellers who need to sell, and buyers who need to buy.
Lucky for us, in this age of technological glory, real estate agents have access to some great solutions to ensure that processes remain safe, and transactions can continue to take place. This too will pass, and in the meantime, we can all use a little creativity to ensure that our brief pauses don’t turn into a full stop.
Great News for Buyers
Finally, a silver lining to COVID-19 mark on the markets: if financially possible, it can be a great time to buy a home with interest rates being the lowest we have seen.
In response to the viral outbreak, banks worldwide have been cutting interest rates. The Bank of Canada cut the interest rate for Canadians by a full percentage point earlier this month. As a result, prospective home buyers looking to get a mortgage can now expect to borrow at a decreased rate. With fixed term mortgage rates also on the decline, home buyers have the flexibility to borrow more and aim for a higher home price or get a better mortgage rate and have less expensive mortgage payments.
So, with buyers in a good position to buy, how are real estate agents helping to make home sales happen, particularly in the wake of temporary social distancing?
Leverage Technology for Real Estate!
Big advances in technology have ignited a fundamental shift in the real estate industry, and it is now easier than ever to gain a wealth of knowledge about a home, condo, townhouse or any listing from the online listing alone.
Floor plans, detailed descriptions, panoramic pictures, and video tours allow the buyer to get a good feel for a home, before ever setting foot within the property.
With a greater segment of the population glued to their screens during isolation measures, there could be a marked increase in recreational and serious buyers browsing the online marketplace. Agents will be ensuring more than ever that their online listings are as detailed and alluring as possible.
These tools will help the real estate market move online, at least until isolation measures have passed:
360 Virtual Video Tours
More agents are working with photographers specializing in 360 home video tours as a way to create an immersive experience for the home buyer.
By helping to bring the property listing to life, buyers like that they can get a feel for the space without being there. A good virtual video tour is navigable, interactive, and controlled by the viewer. The resolution should be high, and the control tools should be intuitive.
The ultimate goal is to replicate the experience of walking through each room, in person. During COVID-19, 360-home tours are a recommended alternative to an open house.
Ditching the Paperwork
We may be hoarding toilet paper supplies, but we can a least give the printer paper a rest by moving to electronic signing methods once you’re ready to sign on the bottom line.
There are a number of downloadable apps available, allowing signatories to sign a PDF or word document directly through your phone or tablet. Many of which real estate agents are already using to facilitate real estate deals.
Limited contact, limited paper. Online signing methods can be encrypted with a tamper-evident seal and audit trail. This ensures the legality of the signed documents and allows you and your agent to view what was signed, and when.
While face-to-face contact is challenged during the period of social distancing, there are other ways to maintain a personal connection with your agent. Video calling tools such as FaceTime and WhatsApp, can help mimic a meeting with your agent more effectively than a phone call, and can also prove to be useful if you wish to view aspects of a property not shown through the listing.
Above all, it’s important that you’re taking precautions to ensure your personal safety, and the safety of others during your home search. And remember that “necessity is the mother of invention”; perhaps some of these temporary adjustments will prove to be viable long-term solutions for the real estate industry. In the meantime, with a little bit of creativity, real estate agents can maintain their commitments to their clients, in a way that keeps all of our communities safe.