Are you thinking of selling your home during the pandemic? Here’s what our experience was like and how we handled things that I was at high risk.
In our case, the pandemic played a huge role in our decision to even sell our home. (The house we talk about in our debt-free story.) We wanted to move for a while, but hadn’t seriously considered moving because many of our family members and friends are here.
But the past year gave us a clear idea of what it would be like to live away from family, friends, shops and restaurants. Without traveling and while my husband was also working from home. And … it wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought.
Besides not being able to see family and friends, there were actually advantages. We saved a lot of money by not eating out and a lot of time by not running many errands. My husband also had to work from home. I discovered the joy of roadside pickup. And we realized that we could be happy without many of the things we’ve been doing all along.
(Though it will be SO MUCH BETTER when we can see people in person and travel again.
So we decided to sell our home and move out of the state, even if that meant selling our home during the pandemic. So we sold as securely as possible and still got the best dollar for it.
What we didn’t do
First, here is what we do Not do to sell our home and why.
We have not considered any of the many offers we have received via text, phone calls and letters. Why? Because these were from people or companies trying to get a screaming deal for our house.
We also didn’t use any of the services that buy houses. (Like Zillow Deals, OpenDoor, Offerpad, etc.) Even if it would have been nice to sell with one click, it wasn’t worth the money it would have cost us. (Even taking commissions into account.) I did it look to an offer from one of the companies that came by mail. The range they gave was far less than what we ended up selling for.
We didn’t move first and then sold this house. Why? We’ve spent a lot of time getting out of debt. We didn’t feel like going back inside. Even if we’d agreed, it felt too risky. After all, selling an empty home can be more difficult.
So, how did we sell our house during the pandemic? In short, the traditional way – but with a twist.
Selling our house
Phoenix is currently a brand new real estate market. It’s up 13% lately and there aren’t many homes for sale.
Since I am at high risk and have a VERY high chance of death if I catch Covid, I didn’t want people in our home. (Until they absolutely had to be.)
So our goal was to sell the house without anyone seeing it first.
This might not fly as well in normal times, but we decided to give it a try. We started with the basics.
Basic tips for selling your home
If you want to get your home ready for sale, here are the basic tips.
If something needs to be fixed, fix it. When you have really wild colors on the wall, repaint. Depersonalize it a little do a bit through family photos. (Sad to say the latter is especially good if you’re a colored person.) Relax until your house looks spacious. Then cleanse deeply.
If you have pets and are letting people into your home, see if your pets can stay in a different location during the process.
In general, debugging and cleaning are the most important things to do. Your home will stand out from other offerings if it’s clean and free of extra things. Far too many people don’t, and buyers can’t look past dirt or clutter. Make the beds and at least pick up laundry before the photos!
So we cleaned up, cleaned and repainted most of the walls. We rented a small storage unit to hold half our books and a few bits and pieces to get them out of the house. Then we cleaned again.
We also found an experience brokers can use to do marketing and sales.
Preparing for the listing of the house
Usually the realtor will have your home photographed. But we didn’t want any people in the house either. Not even a photographer.
So I made a Matterport video on my cell phone. That’s a 3-D walk around the house as you can see on Google Street View. It’s really cool, free for a place and easy to do.
I also took the photos myself. I used to be a wedding photographer so I figured I could do it. It turns out that photographing the inside of a house is MUCH harder than I expected. I could tell our agent wasn’t a fan of mine, but I made it.
Here are a few of my photos:
Are the photos perfect? No. Are they doing the job? Yes. I have a DSLR, but a wide-angle smartphone would probably have worked too.
When you do this, make sure you have good, even lighting. Clean and then resume before taking the photos. Move people and pets out of the way so they don’t end up in photos. (My husband sat in the car with our dogs to get them out of the way.)
Take photos of any room from any perspective. Don’t skimp on this. Entries with lots of good photos make it better.
Finally, take photos of the outside of your home, ideally during the golden hour. (That is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset.) The light is really nice then.
Provide as much information as possible to buyers
Selling a home during the pandemic is a big deal. But buying one is even bigger! Buyers will be spending a ton of money so give them as much information as you can to make things easier.
In our case, I’ve created a general floor plan to include in the list. Floor plans can REALLY help sell your home, especially if people can’t view it before buying. But even if they can. We measured all the rooms and this information was also added.
I wanted people to be able to imagine walking around the house and knowing if their furniture would fit.
I also took a short video of activities in the area using my cell phone. But I don’t think that made that much of a difference, if any. If I had approached more California buyers it might have, but it was sold before we could do that.
Our agent also had drone photos taken of the house. This allowed shoppers to see the area from above and see part of the neighborhood.
Then it was time to start the listing process.
Fill out the list form completely
Our broker let us know what information she needed for the MLS listing. There are a ton of details that you need to include and you want to include as much as possible.
Gathering this information can also help with the seller disclosure form and rating. (We made a list of all the updates we’ve made to the apartment over the years and left those to the appraiser.)
Ordinarily you would have a locker and demonstrations at this point, but we don’t. We included on the MLS-only agent notes that due to Covid, we would not let people go home until we accepted their offer. (Of course, they could step back at this point if they didn’t like it.)
And it worked. Within 48 hours we had 4 offers that ended in a small bidding war. This is very much because of how few houses there are on the market and how popular the Phoenix Metro is. Plus, our house has a great layout and is in a good location.
In the end, we sold almost 3.7% more than asked. We were also able to negotiate extra time in the house after it closed.
Could we sell more if we had demonstrations? Maybe, although we would have needed a cash buyer to do that. But it wasn’t worth it for us and we didn’t want to wait an unknown time to move.
Precautions during the remainder of the sales process
But accepting an offer wasn’t the end of things. The buyers then had to tour the house, have an inspection carried out, have it assessed, and take one final tour. All of this is about having people in the house. So we went every time someone needed to be in the house.
And by the left, I mean, we sat with the dogs in our cars nearby while the people were inside. We urged everyone who wore masks. (Though there is no guarantee that people will wear their masks.)
Before we left the house, we turned on all the fans and opened the windows. We had ceiling fans, the fans in the bathroom, the fan in the kitchen hood, and the fan all over the house.
After people left, we checked our security cameras to make sure the fans were still on. (And ran very quickly with N-95 masks to turn them on when turned off.)
After all, every time we waited 3 hours in our cars after people finished the house. The idea was to give the house time to air out. So much time may have been an exaggeration, but I didn’t want to risk it at high risk.
After the three hours we came back with the N-95 masks on and were disinfected. We wiped off all of the door handles, light switches, drawer and cabinet edges, faucets and handles, toilet handles and seats, and the edges of anything that would be easy to brush. Then we washed our hands and exposed ourselves.
So in total we sat in the car for between 14 and 15 hours.
The closing process
The closing process was easy. In Arizona, people can use a distant notary public so we didn’t even have to leave the house.
We completed the documents online with DocuSign and had the notary testify remotely via a webcam.
We also had the option of having a mobile notary come into the house (outside) or go to an office. It all happened pretty quickly.
That sums up our experience selling our home during the pandemic. Overall it went very well. Was it inconvenient? Yes. Was it better than a high chance that I would be hospitalized and die of Covid? Very much so.
So, if you are unsure of how selling now might work, hopefully this gives you a good idea. I am happy to answer questions about the process if I have left something out.