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Covid-19 FAQ for sellers

April 03, 2020

The economic impact of the current health crisis is creating a significant amount of anxiety across the real estate industry. For homeowners, one of the key concerns is ‘What if I have to sell my home in the next few months?’

The situation is changing day to day, and no one can accurately predict what restrictions will be in place two days from now, let alone two months. But we have tried to answer what questions we can based on the current situation.

This article (current as at 03/04/2020) will be updated as we have more information.

How can potential buyers view my home when the government directive is to not have open homes?

While we’re unable to host traditional open homes, there are a range of other methods we’re putting into place to ensure potential buyers can view a property. Where possible, marketing for all properties should include virtual or video tours providing another perspective on the property and allowing prospective buyers to gain a clearer picture of how your property will meet their needs. Once they have viewed the property on-line, further questions can be responded to by the agent via phone or video conference. At this point genuine interest will generally require a physical inspection of the property and the agent will coordinate with you and conduct a private viewing. Appropriate social distancing guidelines will be strictly followed and all recommended vetting and hygiene procedures will be implemented.

Can my home still go to auction?

Yes. As part of our ongoing digital transformation we have adopted an online auction platform which has been well received by sellers, buyers, bidders and agents. Your agent can give you more information about this. All the Independent auctions held using this platform on the first weekend following the banning of public auctions sold and the results mirrored expectations from a more traditional on-site event. Several buyers indicated they preferred the process as they could register bids from their personal space while remaining in touch with their agent and advisor.

How much of the selling process can be completed without direct face-to-face contact with other human beings?

A significant percentage. Much of the initial consultation can be carried out using video conference and presentation platforms. This allows all parties to gain an understanding of what is involved, a clear overview of the market, and the ability to cover all important aspects of the transaction. Marketing recommendations, contingency planning, moving costs and transaction investment can all be reviewed. Agreements can also be entered into using digital platforms. A physical inspection of the property will be required and of course this will be handled in the most professionally and with the utmost attention to social distancing and public health requirements.

From that point onwards, completion of building & pest inspections, along with any other professional services from styling to photography and private viewings can be handled effectively in a controlled environment.

What health and safety measures have been put in place during inspections?

We have a number of strategies in place to ensure the safety of sellers and buyers.

  • As far as possible, we will conduct detailed consultations with buyers to ensure they have the maximum possible information on the home and we believe it is likely to mee their needs. This will include identification of ability to purchase and personal circumstances so there are mutual benefits to all parties in proceeding.
  • Sellers or agents should disinfect all surfaces before anyone comes through
  • Agents will supply all parties with hand sanitiser and personal protective equipment
  • We actively work to ensure minimal touching of surfaces
  • Anyone displaying symptoms of illness will not be able to complete a physical inspection.

Our experience to date has been that all sellers and buyers have felt comfortable with these precautions and inspections have run safely and smoothly. 

Are there still people who want to buy homes during this health crisis or should I take my home off the market?

Yes. It comes as a surprise to some, but there are buyers out there and we’re receiving strong enquiry. As an example, Allhomes released some data on 25th March that showed that in mid-March, online buyer enquiry was up 14% compared to the same time last year, despite the current health crisis.

Indications are that this enquiry comes from several sources. These include:

  • People with pressing accommodation needs such as those who have sold recently or are moving for work
  • Parents of students expecting to move back into a physical university or college environment one the crisis is over
  • Buyers who have had little impact on their personal or economic circumstances as a result of Covid-19 and need their housing requirements met.
  • First homebuyers who are ready to buy with finance in place.

And there are others. With interest rates remaining at historically low levels, the likelihood of more limited available housing supply due to personal uncertainty, and a strong government employment sector in Canberra, we are seeing evidence of continued demand and opportunities for home sellers while these circumstances continue.

Are banks still financing home loans?

Yes. Obviously, they’re taking into consideration the risk factors and the future capacity pay back the loan. But their business is giving out home loans, so they’re still doing that. Good borrowers are still attractive to the banks. Again, this is where Canberra’s unique government-heavy workforce may benefit sellers.

Are settlements being affected?

Currently, we’ve seen a few delays in settlement because of what’s going one, generally just by a couple of days. We’ve also seen a lot of buyers wanting to bring forward settlements as they want to get into their new homes sooner rather than later.

What should I be doing if I think I might need to sell in the next few months?

We are working with our clients to bring forward things like building and pest reports, and Energy Efficiency Rating assessments, even if they haven’t listed yet, as we don’t know if/when these services will be shut down. We’re also providing advice on what they could be doing around the home over the next few months to get it ready for sale. That way, as soon as they want to and can sell, we can hit the market.

If you think you might want to sell in the next few months, it’s best if you speak with an agent now.