How to Buy and Sell Property During the coronavirus
While that change upended everyone’s daily drill, for many it also crashed in right as they were about to embark on a major life transition, such as buying their first home or selling their current one.
Now with a third of the global population - including Ireland - under lockdown, property buyers and sellers are rightly unsure of the next steps to take.
Be Creative and Carry On
But while the necessary ‘stay home’ measures have curbed our movements, it doesn’t mean we can’t still plan for our futures.
Unlike the UK where the government has effectively put a freeze on the housing market, Ireland’s property industry is continuing to roll with the punches.
As far as several estate agents and property experts are concerned, the rule now is to be creative and carry on. Property buyers and sellers must start adapting to the new normal if they want to see a sale through by the time the pandemic has passed over.
So whether you’re looking to buy or sell, here are a few points to keep in mind during the age of coronavirus.
FOR THE BUYER: New Ways of Viewing Homes
Hopeful home-hunters now have online means to keep looking for their perfect property.
Estate agents across Ireland were quick to pivot to more practical ways to keep property transactions moving.
These include virtual home tours, live-streaming open houses, and 3D renderings of unfinished homes and housing estates. All of which makes it possible for potential homebuyers to continue viewing properties – but just from the comfort of their own sofas.
Virtual Home Tours:
Virtual home tours go beyond basic photography. Instead, they bring the buyer through the house room-by-room, stopping to highlight special features such as hardwood flooring, a kitchen island or walk-in wardrobe. Guests can linger over interior details that catch their eye, while a live-chat component enables them to get answers to immediate questions.
3D Visualisations for New Builds:
3D visualisations of homes not yet built were already in use by some of Ireland’s estate agencies prior to the pandemic.
However, now more than ever this technology is proving a powerful tool to pre-show a new build to potential homebuyers.
The 3D renderings highlight the full infrastructure and design of a home so that would-be-buyers can see what they’ll be paying for.
Not only can clients check out room layout, location, décor, and lighting designs, but often these renderings show the exterior benefits such as the streets, playing areas for kids, and nearby roads and supermarkets.
Remote Viewings and Live Streams for Second-Hand Homes:
If keen on a second-hand home, many agencies are organising customised, on-site viewings and live streams through social media apps.
This allows current homeowners to walk you through a live video tour of the property and be on hand to answer any of the normal queries you’d have if you were wandering through their pad in person.
FOR THE BUYER: Reality Check Your Finances
This is a hard one, particularly if 2020 was the year you were planning on making the big leap from renting to buying.
While jobs in the public sector or large pharma and IT multinationals are generally protected, other jobs might not be so insulated for the economic fall-out that’s threatening post-pandemic.
So if your industry is one that is taking a bad beating from the coronavirus, you need to be honest with yourself about whether you’ll be able to sustain mortgage repayments in the long-run.
In the UK, mortgage lenders are withdrawing many of their products right now. While in Ireland, the majority of lenders are still open for business. However, the criteria for getting mortgage approval still stands at a loan limit of three and a half times gross income and a first-time buyers deposit of 10%.
FOR THE BUYER: House Prices Now and Later
House prices in Ireland are steady and offering good value. Coupled with current low interest rates, this makes it a potentially good time to buy for anyone ready to leap.
However, buyers expecting to see house prices plunge even further shouldn’t hold out too much hope of that happening.
A recent report from Davy stockbrokers suggests investors believe house prices could fall by 20% if the current kicking the economy is taking from the coronavirus continues for a long length of time.
But most experts are quick to point out that Ireland entered into the coronavirus boxing ring from a position of relative strength in both the economy and property market. That means, if the pandemic is contained then a slump is likely to be short-lived.
Also, for those who’ve already agreed purchase on a property, it’s still ‘business as usual’ with banks and solicitors even if they’ve shut up shop on the high street and are now working from home.
FOR THE BUYER: Expect some delays
Of course, buyers have to be pragmatic too and expect delays as a side-affect of the latest lockdown. While lenders are continuing to offer regular services, many are also coping with a reduction in staff due to the virus.
And those that are working have extra duties on their desks as reports note that Irish banks are processing more than 28,000 current mortgage breaks for customers who’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
In addition, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland has advised its members to comply fully with the government’s recommendations on non-essential direct contact. This will continue to result in fewer inspections of properties.
Many estate agents are offering virtual valuations, giving interim estimates pending full assessments once coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. And while this helps processes remain in train, other delays such as sourcing title deeds or completing a snag list will keep many buyers on the back foot for the present time.
FOR THE SELLER: Knowing whether it’s still a good time to sell
For many who were planning to put their property on the market before the coronavirus crisis, the big question is should I stay or should I sell?
The correct answer is, of course – it depends.
Springtime is typically prime selling season and many buyers will continue to look for their perfect property even while the crisis continues.
House prices have not dropped dramatically so sellers can remain hopeful they can still achieve their asking price.
However, as with buyers, sellers should expect transaction delays and new rules on how to market their homes online. This may force some to decide to pull properties off the market and try to sell at a later date.
Those not sure how to proceed should seek advice from their estate agents. Their suggestions from the frontlines of selling during this period will be invaluable.
FOR THE SELLER: Ask your agent about creating a virtual tour
With practically all of the main estate agents in Ireland moving to online-only viewing, it’s a good idea to ask your agent about creating a virtual tour of your property.
Unfortunately, even if your agent happens to be within 2km of your home (the current movement restrictions allowed in Ireland under the lockdown), having anyone come into your property to film it is a health risk you shouldn’t take.
But you can snap your own videos from your phone or camera, and then send the file to your agent for them to upload as part of your listing.
Before filming, ask your agent:
- Whether they have filming & editing guidelines
- What features you should focus on
- The length of the video
- The size the file needs to be.
If the property you’re selling needs some good lovin’, make use of Perfect Property’s Perfect Room tool. This tool is an add-on feature for estate agents and ‘virtually renovates’ internal or external photos so that would-be buyers can see the true potential of a home.
FOR THE SELLER: Make your home presentable for live viewings
Let your agent know too that you’re available to give potential buyers a remote live tour of your home.
But be sure to clean and tidy your pad as thoroughly as you can before any scheduled viewing.
Some tidy-up tips to take on board include:
- Decluttering all counters and tabletops – that includes bathroom shelving as well as everywhere else.
- Adjusting throw pillows on sofas and beds.
- Taking down pictures of you and your fam’ - potential buyers want to picture themselves living there – not you!
- Shutting wardrobe and kitchen cabinet doors.
- Tidying away ALL clothes – yes, that includes the ironing and the underwear drying on the kitchen clothes horse!
- Hiding pets – If potential buyers see your three cats and Bernese mountain dog, they’ll typically think ‘smell’ followed by ‘animal hair sheddings’, rather than “aww, how cute!”
- Closing toilet seats.
FOR THE SELLER: Make use of all other available online tools
Make use of teleconferencing tools such as Zoom and Skype if people start to show real interest in your home. Include your agent in these calls, particularly if buyers want to make an offer. That way everyone’s on the same page with regards to the process.
Remember too that there are several e-signing programmes, such as DocuSign, which will enable you and the buyer to sign a contract legally without having to meet face-to-face in an office.
Conclusion: Health and Hope
The bottom line is that whether you’re buying or selling a house right now there are several new considerations to take on board.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an extraordinary time in our lives – but it doesn’t mean we have to put our lives completely on hold. That dream to own your first home or to sell the current one you’re in can still come true. Just stay healthy and have hope.