Buying or selling a house is never an easy proposition, but the normal stresses and worries are multiplied when COVID-19 is added into the process.
“It’s been a very challenging period,” said Tom Brown, sales associate at Lawrence Realty in Red Wing. “Most realtors in Red Wing are affiliated with the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors and the Minnesota Association of Realtors, and we follow their guidelines and recommendations closely. They began by suspending all open house activity until further notice.”
Brown and most other Realtors have continued individual showings of property, but have followed guidelines to make the showings as safe as possible for everyone involved.
He said before a tour begins, he asks potential buyers about any flu or other health symptoms they might be having. He maintains social distancing and asks clients to not touch anything in the house during a tour.
“We use hand sanitizer on entry and departure,” Brown said. “We will not open closet doors and cupboards at this time. I open any doors with gloves and a Clorox wipe, including the lockbox. We don’t touch any surface without disinfecting that surface.”
The St. Paul Area Association of Realtors released on March 24 several guidelines for house showings. They recommend that the agent and buyers travel in separate vehicles and that only one client should view a property at a time. They believe that sellers should vacate the property and that Realtors leave the lights on to reduce contact with surfaces in the property. Their multiple-listing service removed all scheduled open houses from the database on March 23.
When Gov. Tim Walz issued his stay at home order on March 25, he noted that there were some businesses that were essential and included Realtors in that category. In response, the Minnesota Association of Realtors released a set of guidelines similar to those of the SPAAR but added in the need to use virtual showings and photographs to help buyers reduce the number of actual home tours.
The Minnesota Association of Realtors also released an addendum to purchase agreements based on COVID-19 which helps both buyers and sellers work in good faith to meet purchase deadlines, but takes into account unforeseen circumstances resulting from the disease.
“When you have a purchase agreement, there are promises that are made with stated timelines,” Brown said. “What this does is allows the buyer and seller to agree to extend a purchase agreement if either party provides written notice of a COVID-19 related event such as quarantines, hospitalizations, or other problems.”
Brown said that Realtors are trying to work out options to help during these times of restricted showings and open houses. One possibility is a feature created by the Minnesota Association of Realtors called "Coming Soon." It allows realtors to post a home with information about the price and when the property will be available for showings and offers. Brown said this allows Realtors to premarket a property and gives sellers some market exposure without having actual showings.
“People care about the health of others,” Brown said. “That's paramount. That’s what drives our whole response to COVID-19. If it means not being able to show a house or write a contract, well, that’s just the times we find ourselves in right now. Sooner or later that will all come back.”