Mark Esch and his family moved to Savage two years ago. It took less than a week to sell their home in Mankato. The process was smooth. The process was normal.
Now with the Eschs on the move again, looking to get closer to Minnetonka High School, where Mark was hired this winter as head coach of the Skipper football team, buying and selling a house looks a little differently.
“We’re really in limbo. We’re unsure if we should pull our house off the market. Our Realtor told us to wait until Sunday. We can see people are looking online, liking our property on sites like Zillow. But no one’s moving forward,” Esch said.
Their two-year-old house has been on the market just a week. At the time, the Eschs thought, with schools closed, families may be out looking a bit more. Recent developments, with shelter-in-place and Minnesotans asked to stay-at-home, has shifted that thinking.
“We had conversations with our Realtor about virtual tours of our home. What we can try to do to get people to come out,” said Esch, who said private showings remain available with the proper precautions.
On the other side, the Eschs are unable to move forward with a purchase of a new home. They found a few they like, but it is contingent on a sale of their home.
“We could move in July and be fine, so we have that going for us. Worst-case scenario is I have to commute for a school year. It’s not ideal,” Esch said.
Edina Realty’s Kristen Nicholson, a former swim coach in District 112, was ready for the busy season as a Realtor.
“It has been a fluid situation for the past few weeks. Our spring market was heating up and we came into this pandemic with a strong and robust real estate climate. Economists are predicting real estate will help lead the market in economic recovery. While this has profoundly impacted people, we are still seeing listings hit the market. Listings in the Twin Cities region were up approximately 27% as of week end of March 14,” Nicholson said.
“Obviously, those numbers could change with the ‘stay-at-home’ order. There is a large pipeline of transactions in the system that need to close, and many people need to buy and sell for various reasons. I anticipate that selling a home for some will be put on pause mode, but for others the listing will occur with modifications made to the process,” she said.
Modifications for sellers and buyers include a halt of open houses. Even showings are done privately on a case-by-case basis. If it allowed, buyers are asked to not touch anything. Sellers are asked to turn on every light switch and open up every door and cabinet.
Virtual open houses are the new norm.
“Virtual situations are happening more and more everywhere. Fortunately, in real estate, we have been working in a virtual way for quite some time. Virtual tours, staging, photographs, remote contract signings and closings have been in play and are currently being enhanced. We are seeing some inspections done virtually, as well,” Nicholson said.
Seeing a home in person is always the preferred way, but Nicholson said the advances being made to buy and sell online are expanding.
“Virtual options give us a way to weed out the ones that don’t work and then refine the list to see in person. Virtual listing appointments are happening and will continue to happen as this pandemic pushes us all to adapt our businesses to the current marketplace. As I used to tell my swimmers, ‘find a way.’ I’m now following that suggestion,” Nicholson said.
Jesse Godzala of Edina Realty believes clients should pump the brakes a bit with virtual tours. There’s a right and a wrong thing to do with each property.
“There’s a fine line between showing too much, and showing too little. You want your pictures and videos to make your house look better than it really is,” he said.
Godzala said a 360-degrees Matterport camera, in theory, is a great tool, but nothing is hidden in a house. The camera will pick up that Cheeto little Johnny or little Suzie spilled on the floor.
“What people don’t realize is you don’t want buyers to see the whole house. You want to show them enough of the house to get them interested. You want to give them a good idea what the house looks like, but not scare them away from coming out and checking it out,” Godzala said.
He uses a drone to fly through the house, above the house, using wide-angle HD lens to properly capture the space. In the end, though, if the photos and videos don’t give off the right look, it’s not worth putting out there for people to see.
“Online presentation needs to be dialed in, now more than ever. You have to stay relevant now on sites like Zillow, so in a couple of weeks when people are going back into homes, your house is near the top,” Godzala said.
Legacy Title, a full-service Title Insurance and Real Estate Closing Company, with 12 locations around the metro area, including Edina, began offering a safe, albeit unconventional, way to close real estate transactions during the coronavirus outbreak.
The advent of a drive-thru service at Legacy Title’s Blaine location is being met with open arms and even accolades from competitors.
Connie Clancy, president of Legacy Title said the idea came out of necessity.
“We recognized immediately that this situation would cause a shift in the traditional way of doing closings and began implementing changes right away,” said Clancy. “We started with separating parties into different closing rooms, offering curbside service and then saw the opportunity to offer the drive-thru option and acted quickly to make it happen for our customers.”
Since commencing this innovative service, customers have sung its praises. “They are relieved and appreciate the ability to close safely from their car,” said Carmen Jorgensen, executive closer. “We began offering drive-thru service March 23. We have had several closings in this drive-thru already and have it booked for the next several days. It’s really catching on.”
Clancy said that the industry is in the midst of its strongest March ever, with the recent drop in interest rates. Clients who are purchasing or refinancing a home depend on the ability to close on a transaction while the rates remain favorable. Many of these pending refinances will allow consumers to potentially save hundreds of dollars per month in mortgage payments, which is very valuable — especially now.
“All of our 12 locations have curbside closing services available, but this drive-thru concept is unique (to Blaine),” she said. “We are taking many precautions to ensure we are always keeping a safe distance and using best practices to ensure everyone remains healthy and safe.”
HOME SELLERS ON HOLD
Nicholson reminds potential home sellers waiting to list until after the virus pandemic that the time is now to prepare your home.
“Preparing for life after corona can give homeowners a great way to stay productive during these crazy times. A few tips would be to start with one room at a time and refresh, clean, declutter, paint, and fix broken items. Small steps now can lead to big gains for a seller down the road,” she said.
“I use a professional stager to help my sellers identify those ‘must do’s’ as they prepare to list their home. This is an important piece of getting top dollar for your home. I refer to the process as delivering a ‘polished and presentable product.’ Corona will go away, but buyers for your property will remain,” Nicholson said.