Across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has put much of life on hold. However, many people still want to buy and sell real estate. This has sparked creativity and perseverance across the industry as professionals find ways to help buyers find the right home…from a safe distance.
No-contact house hunting is now possible and available across the country. Using technology and a little ingenuity, buyers can go through the entire homebuying process with little or no person-to-person contact. Here’s a quick overview of how it works.
1. Online mortgage calculator
The best way for buyers to start searching for property is to determine their budget. A mortgage calculator1 can help buyers identify a comfortable price range, which will narrow down their home search.
2. Virtual showings
Virtual property tours go beyond basic photography to create immersive, 3D experiences to make buyers feel like they are in the home.2 Done well, virtual tours can help buyers decide if they’d like to physically tour a property or even make an offer.
To enable virtual open houses, MLS, the service that most brokers use to list homes online, has added fields in listings to include virtual capabilities. Many have also suspended the requirement that properties must be shown in-person to remain on the market.3
Intrepid brokers will physically go to properties—mask, booties, and smart phone at the ready—to conduct a walkthrough using video chat to give buyers a better understanding of the property and its details. The broker can zoom in to investigate details, describe finishes, and create the overall sensory experience of a home.
3. In-person viewings
If a buyer still wants to see the home in person, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) recommends4 that only one buyer should enter the home at a time, and maintain six feet of space between each guest. NAR also suggests that guests wash their hands and remove shoes upon entry or cover them with booties.
4. Digital mortgage applications
Buyers can also find a home loan online through a reputable mortgage company on a secure site. Buyers can apply, upload documents, and speak to a mortgage expert all without leaving their home.
5. Solo home inspections
Traditionally, buyers may attend their home inspection to ask questions about the home’s systems, components, and overall condition. While home inspectors still provide a detailed report, inspectors now go solo and follow safety guidelines, like those spelled out by the American Society of Home Inspectors,5 to help keep sellers—and inspectors—safe during the home inspection.
6. Real estate closings by proxy
Depending on which state you live in, real estate closings can be difficult to achieve without being physically present to sign the legal documents, as electronic signatures aren’t legally binding in every state or county. To avoid attending their closings, buyers often give power of attorney to their lawyer, who will physically attend the closing.
7. “Drive-thru” interactions
Even with virtual technology available, there may be details that need to be handled in person. In these instances, the parties often meet up in a parking lot, wear masks, and stay in their respective cars to lower any potential exposure. And, when signing something, it’s best if everyone brings their own pens.
Are you ready to buy a home virtually? Start your digital mortgage application with Wintrust Mortgage today.
1 Wintrust Mortgage, Online home loan prequalification and mortgage application
2 Washingtonian.com, "Real Estate Agents Are Now Holding Virtual Showings and Live Streaming Open Houses"
3 National Association of Realtors®, “Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy”
4 National Association of Realtors, “Coronavirus”
5 American Society of Home Inspectors, "COVID-19 and Home Inspections"