Should You Sell Your House During the Pandemic? Real Estate Agents Weigh In

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The ongoing pandemic and economic uncertainty surrounding it have made many people hit pause on big plans. If you were in the process of selling a home, you’re probably wondering if this is still a good time to sell.

Here’s all of our coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, which we will be updating every day.

Should you move forward, or wait? What if your home is already listed?

We spoke to real estate agents from all over the country about selling a home during COVID-19.

Here are four major takeaways.

Manage Your Expectations

While real estate isn’t the booming sellers’ market it was a few months ago, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad time to list your home. After all, when deciding on the best time to list, you should also be looking to the future.

“Ask yourself how important it is to sell within the next three years,” said Ron Abta, founder of Polaris Realty. “If the answer is ‘very’, I would recalibrate expectations on price and get on the market now before more inventory further depresses it.”

Recalibrate expectations on price? Depending on where you live, it’s quite possible you may need to come down on your asking price in order to make a sale.

Since the true effects of the pandemic are not yet known, Abta suggests that a good way to come up with an appropriate asking price is by looking at historical sales data — as in how much similar homes sold for in the past six months.

“Using that value,” Abta said, “I would advise sellers to apply a 5% discount in order to roughly approximate today’s value in light of COVID.”

Of course, the best way to know the true value of your home is to work with a real estate agent in your local market. Just be prepared, because you may be advised to sell for less than you thought.

Prepare for More Days on the Market

Extended periods of time on the market used to be a black mark against your property, but times have changed. More market days doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with your listing.

“If you can stand the days on market, go ahead and list,” said real estate agent and investor Ishan Puri of The House Hacker. “Everyone will understand and buyers won’t use it against you.”

It’s also important to understand how your overall price bracket is performing. Most agents we spoke to called out a trend they’ve noticed in the last few weeks with regards to the homes in higher price brackets.

“Sellers should prepare for the potential for longer days on market and slightly less buyer interest the higher the price point,” said Maggie Wells of Keller Williams Greater Lexington in Lexington, Ky.  “For example, anything over $300,000 in our area will move slower and may have lower offers. Anything under say $230,000, and our sellers can expect multiple offers on the first day.”

One reason for the disparity: Buyers are having a harder time getting approved for those jumbo mortgages.

“Properties at $750K and under are moving quickly,” Jeremy Jeter, real estate advisor for Engel & Völkers in Nashville, Tenn. “But sellers in the high-end price point need to prepare themselves for a longer road with what’s taking place in the jumbo mortgage arena.”

Expect a Very ‘Virtual’ Sale

Another thing to expect if you decide to list? No contact.

“The selling process has changed significantly,” said Wells. “Consultations and showings are being held virtually whenever possible, and in-person showings are being done with great caution: masks, gloves, disinfectant, shoe covers, etc.”

Open houses are all but non-existent, she said, and title companies have started to do closings virtually or via drive-up (without lenders and agents present). “We normally all sit at the same table when closing,” she said.

If you’ve never closed on a house via Zoom, not to worry. Just be sure to work with a real estate agent who has.

“My greatest advice for sellers would be to work with a full-time agent who’s fully versed in all of the virtual options available right now,” said Wells.

That includes things like video, as well as 3D marketing tools and strong photography skills. After all, without the option to take an in-person tour, photos might be the best (and only) way your buyer gets to see the house.

If You Already Listed, Stay Put

While the market might not be all that bad for future sellers, it’s probably starting to feel pretty glum for those who listed pre-pandemic. If you happened to list your home just before the country shut down, chances are you’re starting to debate whether or not to take it down.

The experts actually suggest keeping it listed.

“If you already have your house listed on the market, ride it out,” said Abta. “That way, you can attempt to get ahead of the inventory curve before lockdown is lifted.”

In other words, at some point the market will recover. And when it does, it’s better to be among the first to sell, rather than sitting in the pool of inventory.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of timeline, keep in mind that there are plenty of proactive moves you can make as a seller.

For example, you might use this time at home to start decluttering, or make a plan for what you intend to keep or sell post-quarantine.

You might even consider finally taking on all those fixer-upper projects that will make your home more attractive to buyers.