What Home Buyers and Sellers Need to Know: Breaking Down Real Estate Industry Changes

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Maureen Francis, president of Michigan Realtors and associate broker for Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel, spoke with the Chamber’s Brad Williams about how the real estate industry and processes are evolving amid COVID-19. Here are the key takeaways.

People’s priorities and needs are changing.

In response to widespread shutdowns during this global pandemic, people’s expectations for residences are evolving. With more time spent at home, they’re seeking different amenities like pools and patios.

“People have really reevaluated what’s important for them in their homes,” said Francis.

There is a noticeable need for more space, both outdoors for recreational activities and repose, and indoors as families try to establish designated spaces for home offices and remote learning. An influx of people are moving out of urban cores with a trend of people moving back to Metro Detroit from cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, with requests for short-term rentals off the charts.

Photos, videos, and limited capacity are key precautions for sellers.

Agents and buyers have been dependent on video and photos during the selling process through this crisis. In the interest of keeping all parties involved in a sale safe, they’re avoiding in-person interactions to the extent that they can. As the shift back to in-person showings slowly starts back up, sellers and agents are making masks available for visits, instructing visitors not to touch things, asking sellers to leave lights on and doors open, screening visitors before showings, and not scheduling overlapping appointments.

Pre-approvals, virtual tools, and agent support have never been more important for buyers.

Doing research online and being open to virtual property tours through photo, video, and/or video chat are becoming the new normal for homebuyers to maintain health and safety. Further, buyers are advised that being pre-approved is more important than ever to ensure their preparedness and help realtors coordinate the safest, most efficient resources. Francis advises home buyers to think through the process seriously and engage an agent to help them safely navigate it.

“We provide incredible value in terms of protecting someone as they go through this transaction,” said Francis.

Having the proper guidance and counsel can make all the difference as they can protect both buyers and sellers with provisions allowing extra time or exceptions in contracts to account for changing circumstances during through these transactions.

Advocacy is underway behind the scenes to protect the industry, buyers, and sellers.

Advocacy efforts in Washington are focused on issues like stimulus funding, 30-year fixed mortgage protections, and local fair housing. Locally, the key issue is defining what constitutes short-term rentals to avoid a patchwork of definitions from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The industry is advocating for it as a private property right that is balanced for full-time residents as well.

New buying and selling protocols may be here to stay.

Despite the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, interest rates are incredible, and in a broader economic sense, there is still market demand from buyers in residential. As far as the buying and selling processes, it’s unlikely that things will return to “normal.” The move to more virtual solutions and increased safety precautions will continue to take hold across the industry.

“This event is emotionally transformative,” said Francis. “It’s going to leave a mark on everyone living through it in the U.S.”

View examples of these new processes and more resources for buyers and sellers.

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