Things are different these days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sell your house or condo during the coronavirus pandemic. As the Ontario economy begins to re-open and the Toronto real estate market ‘unpauses’, we’re all adjusting to a different way of life and that includes differences in how homes are bought and sold. It’s the ‘New Normal’ in real estate.
We’ve written this Seller’s Guide to help you understand what to expect if you list your home for sale during coronavirus.
Preparing Your Home for Sale During COVID-19
In a coronavirus world, it’s still important to prep your home for sale, but you may not be able to do everything you had planned.
Keep the following home prep tips in mind:
You already know that most Buyers house-hunt online, but in a COVID-19 world, what Buyers see online takes on even greater importance. Making your home look its’ absolute best helps Buyers connect emotionally – and emotional Buyers buy houses.
In Ontario, stagers fall under the REALTOR ‘essential services’ designation, so staging can happen if it can be done safely. Many real estate teams (like us) have staging warehouses full of furniture and accessories and employ their own staging/design staff.
Keep these staging tips in mind:
Related: Staging FAQ
Coronavirus has changed the ways most companies market their products and services, and real estate is no exception. As the New Normal evolves, “virtual” is quickly replacing “in-person” and everyone is trying to reduce their potential exposure by limiting the surfaces they touch and the number of people they congregate with. We predict we’ll see the end of:
- Flyers and postcards
- Feature sheets
- Public open houses
- Agent open houses
The good news for you as a Seller? Most of those old-school marketing tactics have survived the last decade more out of habit than because they’re effective. There are far better ways to reach potential Buyers.
Pre-COVID-19, the best agents were already embracing digital marketing on the web and have proven strategies to expose their listings to the right people. There’s a lot more to marketing a home than announcing it’s for sale on the MLS, and these days, you should expect, at a minimum:
- Gorgeous HDR photography
- 3-D walk-through tours and video
- Floor plans
- Beautifully-written property descriptions
- Advertising on all the property search sites Buyers are using
- Targeted promotion via email and social media
- Immersive home tours on the agent’s or brokerage’s website
Pro Tip: Hire a digital-first agent or team with proven online marketing experience.
Pricing Your Home During Coronavirus
As we watch the Toronto real estate market come back to life, we don’t know what path it will take. We can build an argument where we see prices increase because of pent-up demand just as easily as we can argue that the real estate market will crash because of lost jobs and immigration. It’s the first pandemic in 100 years, and economists and housing experts are in unchartered waters as they attempt to predict what will happen.
What do REALTORS know about pricing and the market right now? We know:
- The current market conditions and how much demand there was last week
- The prices of homes recently sold in your neighbourhood (recently = the last few weeks)
- How long it’s taking homes to sell at the various phases of the pandemic
- The types of properties that tend to always be in demand, and which ones are harder to sell no matter the market conditions
- The types of pricing strategies that are working right now (eg price for a bidding war/price above asking and negotiate/price at market value)
Most importantly, we know that market value is the meeting point between what a Buyer is willing to pay, and how much a Seller is willing to accept.
What’s not helpful in pricing a home during coronavirus?
- Sold prices at the height of the market in February
- Pricing strategies that don’t account for current market realities or buyer
When you list your home for sale these days, you’ll likely decide on the asking price and strategy the day before you list your home for sale. Things are changing that fast – and it’s that important to reflect what’s happening and get your price right. Hire an experienced agent who is on top of everything that’s happening in the market.
In pre-COVID days, our goal was to get the most number of people to see your home in person. These days, safe sales mean minimizing the number of people in your home and maximizing the number of right Buyers who see it in person. To do it right, your agent will need to do 3 things:
- Creatively find ways to let Buyers safely experience your home from the comfort of their home, virtually reproducing the experience they used to have during their first in-person showing or open house visit
- Strategically screen potential Buyers to ensure only financially qualified, motivated and healthy individuals enter your home
- Provide safe in-person showing experiences to encourage the right people to venture out and see it.
1. The Virtual First Showing
The agent you hire to sell your house during this pandemic will need to provide gorgeous photos, 3-D walk-through tours, virtual showing tools and digital marketing to maximize the virtual eyeballs on your home. They’ll need to overload potential Buyers with information and use words to tell stories and evoke emotion.
2. Screening Potential Buyers
Agents and brokerages continue to experiment with processes to ensure that the people seeing your home in-person haven’t been exposed to COVID-19 and aren’t showing any symptoms. There’s still so much we don’t know about the virus that this doesn’t eliminate all the risk – but it hopefully dissuades the wrong people from entering your home.
3. Safe In-Person Showings
Most home Buyers won’t commit to spending hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars on a home without first seeing it for themselves; they want to see it, smell it, touch it; they want to experience the sights and sounds of the neighbourhood. Emotional connection plays a critical role in the home buying process – most of us have experienced the feeling of walking into a house or condo and ‘just knowing it was the one’. Allowing Buyers to experience that feeling is still important.
Understandably, one of the top concerns of home Sellers these days is safety. How do you keep your family safe while showing and selling your home during the COVID pandemic?
Here are our top tips for safe showings:
Pro Tip: It may be possible to list your home for sale without in-person Buyer showings at all, in advance of an offer. Some Buyers may be prepared to negotiate an offer with you, conditional on seeing it in person after the terms have been sorted. This strategy may not get you top dollar, but it will reduce the number of people seeing your home in person, and thus your risk. The success of this strategy depends on the current market conditions, the amount of demand for a home like yours in your neighbourhood and the ability of your agent to market and negotiate this unique situation.
Choose Your Listing Agent Wisely
Hiring the right agent to help you sell your home during coronavirus is critical – and the top REALTORS pre-pandemic may not be the best people to help you in the New Normal.
We’re seeing huge differences in how agents and brokerages have adapted their processes and incorporated safety protocols into their business. Some REALTORS are doing things in the same ways they’ve always done them, some are muddling through it and making it up on the fly, and others have strategically put plans in place.
If you’re interviewing agents to sell your home during coronavirus, make sure to ask:
- What home prep and staging services are you currently offering? Are there any restrictions? Are they included in your commission?
- How have your partners adapted their businesses? (mortgage brokers, lawyers, home inspectors, stagers, cleaners, photographers, etc.)
- What safety protocols do you have in place?
- How do you market your listings online beyond the MLS? What kind of results do you get?
- How have you changed the way you market homes to reflect the New Normal?
- How are you handling virtual showings?
- How are you providing safe showings?
- What will you need from me as the Seller?
- Who would help if you got sick or were forced to quarantine?
- How are you staying on top of what’s happening during the COVID-19 crisis?
Selling your home during coronavirus is possible – but you’ll need to be flexible and partner with the right REALTOR. Be realistic about how things have changed and set your expectations accordingly. And above else? Channel your inner zen.
Are REALTORS Essential Services in Ontario?
When the COVID-19 crisis hit, real estate agents were designated as ‘essential services’ under the provincial guidelines. That allowed us to help facilitate closing sales that happened before the state of emergency and gave us the flexibility to help people who needed to buy or sell urgently. Ancillary services such as stagers, photographers, cleaners and home service professionals were deemed to fall under our essential services designation at the beginning of May 2020, provided they were able to operate safely and were hired by REALTORS. As Ontario begins to re-open, REALTORS are still essential services and are able to legally operate.