The coronavirus pandemic has not stopped the real estate market — it has just moved most of the process online. While the industry has been slow to adopt technology in the past, the pandemic has created a seismic shift in how real estate transactions are handled.
A rapid embrace of existing technology has made buying and selling a home during the pandemic easier, safer, and more streamlined. Let’s take a look at how technology is making real estate transactions possible during the pandemic.
It’s still important to interview real estate agents when you’re getting ready to list your home and to devise a selling plan once you’ve settled on an agent. Instead of going into an office for these meetings, you can have them virtually. It’s easy to conduct a video chat with an agent so you can have a face-to-face meeting, and there are several platforms you can choose from to have these virtual meetings.
Online home searches
Even before the pandemic, most homebuyers were starting their home searches online. There are many websites available where you can search for homes for sale. Online listings will give you a good sense of what’s on the market in your location and help you narrow down properties you’d like to see in more detail.
To get a better sense of the layout of a home, buyers and sellers can use video tours. These can be pre-recorded by the seller or agent and uploaded to many online listing services. In addition, video tours can be done that allow buyers to virtually tour the home. These can be created with software or done in real-time through video chatting services like FaceTime or Skype.
Although regulations differ from state to state, many real estate transactions that require signatures can be performed digitally. The agent or lender can upload documents that can be signed electronically on your device without leaving the comfort of your home.
Sending money is also easy to do without having to come into contact with other people. Depending on the service and what your local regulations are, you may be able to pay with a credit card. Wiring money directly from the bank is also an option. For a more old school approach, you can even send a check in the mail, or arrange to have an agent pick up a check from you (from a safe distance, of course). Just make sure that if you’re wiring money that you don’t become the victim of wire fraud.
Drive-by or desktop appraisals
If you’re applying for a home loan, then getting an appraisal will be part of the closing process. Usually this involves an appraiser coming to the house to evaluate its condition. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have eased restrictions on appraisals and are now allowing drive-by or desktop appraisals. This eliminates the need for an appraiser to enter the home.
Believe it or not, you can even finalize the closing and maintain proper social distancing. Instead of closings where you meet around a table with all parties, many title companies are allowing drive-thru closings. This is similar to how you might do a drive-thru transaction at a bank.