Editor’s note: All of HomeLight’s coronavirus information for buyers, sellers, and agents is available on our COVID-19 hub.
While most of the country goes on lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, agents will have to learn how to talk to nervous real estate clients about the changing landscape.
Rightfully so; buyers and sellers both have valid reasons to be nervous.
A seller might feel apprehensive about new people coming to view their home.
Meanwhile, a buyer may have the same reservations about walking through an occupied home for a viewing.
Nervous buyers or sellers may also decide to put the entire process on hold or pull a home off the market.
Talking to nervous real estate clients is part of the job, and the introduction of coronavirus makes the situation a little more difficult — but not impossible.
With the advice of three experienced real estate agents, we will show you the best ways for talking to nervous real estate clients about real estate sales during the coronavirus pandemic.
Have an honest conversation with clients
Agents typically don’t ask buyers or sellers a lot of personal health questions. However, this is one suggestion that Jason Huerkamp thinks is necessary as a precaution. Huerkamp is a successful Minneapolis real estate agent, selling homes more than 85% faster than the average Minneapolis agent.
“You really have to have conversations with people if you really want to be ultra-safe,” says Huerkamp. “Have they been out of the country in the last 60 days? Have they been in contact with anyone who has COVID-19?”
Huerkamp emphasizes that these questions aren’t about being nosy.
“I’m looking to protect myself, my family, and the industry in general. I owe due diligence for the health of my [buyer and seller] clients to ask a few straightforward questions.”
For example, if a client comes from an area such as upstate New York and flies to Florida to look at a property, this is information that the seller might like to know. It’s exactly what Troy Walseth and Wendy Lockhart went through, and the primary concern is to prevent coronavirus spread.
How to address concerns about coronavirus spread
Just like everywhere else in the country, Walseth’s and Lockhart’s buyer and seller clients have concerns about coronavirus spread.
“I had one showing, and the people had just flown in from upstate New York,” says Walseth. “The seller was concerned about that particular buyer being in the home because that property was still occupied.”
Walseth and Lockhart came up with a plan to help the buyer and seller compromise.
First, they offered the buyer “a video of the entire home; they loved it and wanted to see it in person,” Walseth explains.
“So, I went and unlocked the home. I opened all the doors, turned on all the lights, and I walked them through.
“They did not touch a thing. If a door needed to be opened, I did it. They walked through semi-quickly, and they left.”
Based on Walseth’s actions, there are several ways to help buyers and sellers feel safe and prevent coronavirus spread.
1. Encourage video tours
Speak to both buyers and sellers about video tours. This is perhaps the safest approach to help a seller market their home while allowing buyers to see the inside.
Agents who feel comfortable may choose to do a FaceTime tour, while others can do a pre-recorded tour. Matterport is also available to create an interactive 3-D tour.
2. Enforce a ‘no-touch’ rule
Just like Walseth’s buyer clients, strongly discourage buyers from touching any items if they opt to walk through an occupied home. You can educate buyers on the most recent findings on how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces:
- Copper: Up to 4 hours
- Cardboard: Up to 24 hours
- Stainless steel and plastic: Up to 72 hours
The safest measure to take is to ensure that the buyers do not touch anything in the home, even doorknobs. The agent can open the door and wash their hands or sanitize immediately after. Agents can also bring their own sanitizer to offer to clients.
Gloves may not be the best approach due to the probability of cross-contamination. For example, touching a kitchen countertop and then touching your phone with a pair of gloves can spread the virus from one point to the other.
3. Ask buyers to wear masks
If a nervous buyer enters an occupied home, you may suggest that they wear a mask.
The coronavirus can spread up to 13 feet through the air, and the virus primarily enters through the nose. A mask can serve as another layer of protection.
4. Suggest that the seller sanitize
A clean home is important when a seller puts a home on the market. Now, it can also help put buyers’ minds at ease. The seller can sanitize and disinfect their homes before buyers enter to give everyone peace of mind — including the agent.
Most importantly, suggest that sellers disinfect high-touch areas, such as doorknobs, light switches, and sink handles.
5. Ask buyers to remove their shoes
New studies show that coronavirus can travel on the soles of shoes. When you ask buyers to
remove their shoes, it can help reassure the sellers that they are taking steps to prevent spreading germs or viruses.
In addition to safety measures, agents might find themselves talking to nervous real estate clients about their finances.
Nervous buyers and sellers talk finances
The coronavirus makes an impact on finances for millions of Americans. Buyers and sellers might face permanent job loss, furlough, or a drop in income.
“So really with your clients, you should always be finding out their total situation so you can best help them,” suggests Lockhart.
“For example, we have a client who needs to sell. She just put the home on the market, and it was on the market for a fair price. She got an offer for lower, but what may be in this environment a fair price.”
Lockhart notes that the seller should consider whether they can afford to pay utilities on a vacant home. If a seller chooses to sell a home at a lower cost, they can avoid those utility and mortgage payments and still get some cash in their pocket.
Meanwhile, a seller might decide to pull their home completely off the market. Lockhart makes a suggestion about how to communicate the importance of keeping a home on the market if possible.
“If you do need to sell right now, it’s better to be on the market because there are still people buying, selling, downsizing. If you do need to sell in the next 30, 60, 90 days, it’s better for you to be on the market. We do still have homes go pending every single day,” says Lockhart.
Walseth also points out that people will still buy and sell homes despite the presence of the virus, and serious clients are still active in the market.
“I believe that in our setting right now, it is a good time to have your house on the market. There may not be as much actual traffic through [a seller’s] home right now, which is probably good, but the ones that are out there are definitely serious.
“There is new activity. There are people listing, there are people selling, there are people closing, and business is still moving forward.”
When it comes to buyers, one key focus is to remind them of the market’s current low-interest rates. Interest rates are at a historically low rate, averaging at 3.31% the week of April 20, which can translate to saving a significant amount of money.
When it comes to getting a loan in the coronavirus market, Huerkamp suggests relying on trusted and experienced loan officers. “Lean on those loan officers that hopefully you, as an agent, have a lot of good past experience with, and that are very consumer-facing loan officers that have the consumers’ best interest at heart.”
Huerkamp also recommends interviewing loan officers, and getting loan approval before the lender imposes an overlay and the buyer is no longer qualified. “The market is so volatile right now that you have to really make sure [the loan officer] can get the loan done, and somebody who knows how to get it across the finish line.”
How to keep your cool with nervous clients
The fact is that there are a lot of unknowns around the outcome of the coronavirus. When talking to nervous real estate clients, it’s important to remain calm so they can feel as secure and confident as possible. Here are some tips to make it happen.
1. Speak slowly
Nervousness and anxiety can make us speak too fast. Make an effort to calmly and slowly communicate to buyers and sellers.
Even if it sounds slow to you, buyers and sellers will likely view you as being thoughtful and selective with your words.
2. Ask a question
This technique helps take the focus off yourself and allows you to think through what you want to say.
3. Be realistic
No client expects you to have an answer for everything right away. This is a brand-new situation for everyone, so be realistic about what you know and don’t know.
If you don’t have an answer for something, be upfront about it, and then do what you can to find the answer.
4. Be honest
Sugarcoating the situation won’t help in the long run. Remember that clients value honesty.
5. Address potential issues (and solutions) upfront
If you sense a probable coronavirus-related issue during the process, let the client know as soon as possible.
For example, there might be a delay with the home inspection, which can affect the closing process. There may also be delays with repairs or moving. Explain to the clients that a coronavirus addendum can extend the timeline until things start to normalize.
Talking to nervous real estate clients directly and honestly can build their confidence. Keep the door open for communication, and assure clients that you will help them find solutions to any issues that arise along the way.
Header Image Source: (Dayne Topkin / Unsplash)