Virtual Home Selling

Impactful insights through the words of Keith Robinson, Chief Strategy Officer for NextHome, Inc (written May 6, 2020):

Should I sell my house right now? Can I even sell my house right now? Are there even any buyers? How do I stay safe?

There are so many questions right now from people who are thinking about selling their house, and rightfully so. The unhelpful but truthful answer to all of these questions is… “it depends.”

It depends because every state, county, and even some cities are all taking different approaches to how they are dealing with COVID-19. Some areas are pretty much business as normal, albeit with masks, six feet away, air hugs, and hands covered in sanitizer and gloves (that doesn’t sound very normal does it?). However, in other parts of the country real estate was deemed non-essential and you literally cannot get in to, or close on a house right now. Like always, but ever more so, you need to talk to a local real estate professional so they can help you navigate these new waters like Christopher Columbus (ok, that’s a bad example since he thought he “found” India but you get what I mean, right?).

Let’s assume you are in a place where a real estate transaction can happen, this might actually be a really good time to sell – if you’re willing to try a new process. Inventory levels are as low as they have ever been in the history of the United States, and there are some sellers who are electing to wait to put their homes on the market which is only exacerbating the inventory issue. On top of that, there are few buyers but the ones that are in the market see this as “their time” and they are as motivated as a two-year-old asking for another piece of candy (yes, THAT relentless).

You’ve decided you’re all in… what are the steps to the process? I’m glad you asked, they look something like this:

Step 1: Virtual Agent Interview. We’ve got all the software we need. Heck, our dang phones have like 17 cameras on them nowadays. So, we always meet at a distance and get to know each other. There are tools like GoToMeeting and Zoom where we can take you step-by-step through the process just like we would in your kitchen. If you are even considering it, you should set up a meeting. It’s at least a reason to put on real clothes, shoot maybe even socks. If people can find the love of their life online, we can probably decide if we’d work well together on a Zoom call right?

Step 2: Preparing the house for sale. We’ve found a professional love connection via technology and now we’re working together (yay!). How in the heck do I get my house ready for prime time? Luckily, in most areas across the country construction has been deemed essential so the cadre of professional, licensed, and insured contractors that your REALTOR® has relationships with should be able to get the work done that needs doing. Of course, it will be socially distanced construction and you might have to take a few long drives with the family for picnics and do a deep clean when they are done. However, it is possible it just takes extra coordination and communication which is what being a real estate agent is all about.

Step 3: Pre-Inspections. We’ll also work with inspectors who can do inspections before you put the home on the market so the buyer has as much information about the home as possible without even seeing it.

Step 4: Marketing, Marketing, Marketing. This one is more than one step. It’s a lot of steps.  Exposure of the property has always been important, but now it’s more important than ever. So let’s break this down piece by piece.

  • Custom Marketing Plan: There is nothing “normal” about our current situation. How we market homes has to change, that is why we’ve developed a custom marketing plan to make sure buyers know your house is for sale. With everything from increased online presence, virtual showings, virtual open houses, and more, you need new tools in the new normal and we’ve got them.
  • Maximum exposure online: Right now maximum exposure online is everything. During the first few weeks of COVID-19, the largest real estate sites saw a huge drop in buyer activity. But you know what, as people got a little less scared and a lot more bored they started looking at all the pretty houses again. The same real estate sites have seen a massive spike in buyer activity. That’s why we syndicate our listings to hundreds of websites so basically your house will be online more than that Tiger King documentary.
  • Virtual Image Package: Ok I made this one up. I don’t think there is such a thing as a “virtual image package” but there should be and now there is. Since so much of the process will be done at a distance that old saying of “image is everything” might be true right now. That’s why we’ve got 3D home tours, virtual staging, and always use professional photographers. All of this helps the buyer get closer and closer to feeling like they’ve seen the house from their computer screen (in their daytime pajamas).
  • Virtual Open House and Showings: Even with a Virtual Image Package (see how that just rolls off the tongue??) eventually a buyer is going to want to see the inside. That’s why we’ve developed strategies around doing Virtual Open Houses that profile the property to potential buyers and a virtual showing approach where the buyer can get a guided walkthrough of the property.

Step 5: Offers, addendums, negotiation, and close. Your house got more eyeballs than YouTube (ok, not THAT many… they got 1.6 billion visits monthly), so now its time to get an offer in. You might be surprised to know that much of this has been done “virtually” for a long time.  Gone are the days where a buyers agent will present in the conference room to the sellers and their agent. Today, with a full suite of tools we can literally do all the paperwork remotely without missing a beat. Just adjust the font size so you can read the fine print, smush the mouse button and you’re off to the races.

I do think you’re going to see the real estate process go more and more virtual in the coming months. Sure we will get back to shaking hands (maybe fistbumps?) and meeting in the dining room to review the process but much of this virtual process will stay even after COVID-19 is gone.

If you’re ready, I know your NextHome agent is ready. Give them a call and they can put on their mask and gloves and get the sign in the yard with that cute orange french bulldog Luke and then lead you through the process from start to finish.

Original blog post and more can be found here at NextHome.com

Virtual Home Buying

Impactful insights through the words of Keith Robinson, Chief Strategy Officer for NextHome, Inc:

How in the heck am I supposed to buy a house while I am sheltering in place?? I hardly know what day it is without checking right now. Is it actually possible for me to find a house, evaluate it, write an offer, get it accepted, and close on it? Not to mention moving… is that even legal right now?

Trust me, we hear you. It is always complicated, stressful, and a little emotional buying a house. Maybe even a little more so in this “new normal” (nothing normal about this) of COVID-19. To start with, the answer to all of the above questions is “it depends.” Super helpful, right? The thing is, every state (heck, every county) is approaching this differently. In some states it’s kind of business as nearly normal – just add in vats of hand sanitizer, masks, and 6-feet-away hellos. Others are in lockdown but real estate is deemed essential so you can still transact. And in a few, it’s been deemed non-essential and it’s literally not even possible to close on a home, not to mention see one. So… it depends.

If you are in one of the states (counties) with the first two options, there are some real opportunities out there for buyers right now. We’ve had an inventory shortage in this country for a while now and that is only going to continue with builders slowing down building and more and more millennials entering “household formation” years (a fancy way of saying they can now afford to buy a house). For the buyer with a little creativity and willingness to take action – and the right real estate professional – this could be the time. That being said, it is stressful and a person deciding to hold off to let the dust settle could make sense. The rest of this is for the creative and willing buyer.

Step 1: virtual buyer consultation. It could be over Facetime, a Zoom meeting, or some other virtual conference room software. We’ve been doing things remote at NextHome since we started our company over five years ago. It’s not quite as good as meeting face-to-face but it’s really close to the same thing. I mean, if virtual happy hours are popping up around the U.S., then we can set up a virtual buyer consultation to have all your questions answered.

Step 2: virtual property search. Now you’ve already been digging through Zillow like a detective looking for the one clue to make your case. Now you’ve got someone to send them to so you can get more information. And you’ve got a partner in detective work who will be doing some digging with you and sending you properties that fit your criteria. Think of it as your virtual property concierge who is there to assist, and sometimes lead, the property finding process. Thank the technology gods that more and more have been developed to help you know a lot about a house before you see it. I know, I know, you’re already wondering what happens when you find your dream house online for that, it’s step 3.

Step 3: video home tours. We’ve all got a camera in our pocket (along with a calculator, take that my 6th-grade math teacher who said I wouldn’t always have one handy)and it’s as easy as ever to “see” a property at a distance. Your agent can get access to the property, fire up that Facetime, Facebook video chat, Google Duo, etc. and walk you through every inch of your future home.

Step 4: electronically sign things. Ok, we like it, no, we love it. Now what? It’s offer writing time. The ability to sign documents at distance has been around for years on the real estate side (come on mortgage side, step your game up, because not everything can be signed digitally there). We have all the real estate contracts, addendums, forms, and such available digitally and can email them to you. Then you would need to lean forward towards the computer screen to read the small print and smush a few mouse clicks – you’re now in offer, counteroffer, negations, and starting the closing process. You will probably have to go somewhere to sign loan documents (see above about mortgage) but in most areas, they have changed their process to allow for safe signing. Some even have a mobile notary and closing specialist who can come to you to sign everything. Easy peasy lemon squeezy (it’s actually hard hard lemon hard but our trained real estate professionals are there to help you every step of the way).

Step 5: inspections. Buying a house is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make. There are lots and lots of inspections you can have done. And each of them can be completed, then the reports sent to you via email. We can even set up a virtual conference room to review the report with the inspector and the agent so you can get all your questions answered.

Step 6: transfer funds by wire. Yup, that’s right. You can move money around like a high-powered hedge fund manager. You feel pretty dang cool when you tell the closing facilitator, “I’ll have my people wire the money over.” Trust me. You do.

Step 7: keys, please! As an agent, this was always my favorite part of closing with a buyer. Giving them their keys. As a real estate agent, there isn’t much more rewarding than seeing the people you’ve helped get the keys to “their home.” It’s amazing. Now we just do it over a screen instead of in person. There are key delivery services that can have the keys brought right to you. You’ll just have to Facetime when you do it because I know your agent is going to want to see your smiling face when you get them.

Do I write this with the thoughts that someone will buy a house without ever seeing it. No, of course not. What’s important right now is we all stay safe and we can limit the contact as much as we need to for everyone to feel safe. And we’re fully set up to take care of as much of the process virtually as we can. For some buyers, this is the right time to get bold, take action, and go find their house. And for others, they might want to hold off a few months. For both sets of buyers, we’re here to help you whenever you’re ready.

Original blog post and more can be found here at NextHome.com