With social distancing and shelter in place directives currently in effect for all of the Bay Area, viewing properties has become more challenging. Open house showings are unlikely to return to the real estate market for some time. Still, new homes are being listed for sale; many buyers remain active in the market; and homes are entering contract, proceeding through the escrow process (more or less) normally, and closing as scheduled.
At Unlocked, we’re working hard to adapt to the changing conditions brought about by COVID-19 and to provide our buyers with intelligent solutions and exceptional service even during this challenging time.
Virtual tours are becoming market-standard for new listings. Sellers and listing agents will be making every effort to provide detailed, thorough and high-resolution video tours of available properties. In some cases, listing agents will be hosting live virtual tours for prospective buyers, during which buyers can interact with listing agents at the property in real time, asking questions and directing video coverage as needed. In other cases, for homes that remain owner-occupied while listed, listing agents are facilitating video walkthrough tours on Zoom or FaceTime between sellers and prospective buyers.
Virtual tours can provide an excellent opportunity for buyers to become familiar with a property beyond simply viewing available listing photos online. Still, purchasing a home is an expensive and emotional decision, and we expect that most buyers will feel comfortable proceeding with an offer on a particular property only after they’ve seen the home in person.
Listing Agent Showings
In place of traditional open house showings, some listing agents are instead offering viewings by appointment for pre-qualified buyers. At the appointed time, the listing agent will ensure the home is accessible, and buyers can tour the home on their own. While some listing agents may accompany buyers during the touring appointment (observing social distancing practices), others will choose to wait outside and be available by phone to answer any questions buyers may have.
We’re always happy to reach out to listing agents and ask whether a showing appointment is possible for homes that look like a good fit, and confirm the logistics for the listing agent tour.
When listing agent showings aren’t an option, we’re pleased to be able to offer private tours of unoccupied homes via Unlocked’s Concierge Plus service. Concierge Plus includes all of the products and services available to other Unlocked clients (Custom Valuation Reports, Disclosure Review Summaries, offer strategy guidance and negotiation expertise) as well as private tours to enable buyers to see unoccupied homes in person prior to making an offer.
For our Concierge Plus clients, we offer a cash back rebate at closing of 1% of the purchase price of the home (instead of the usual 2%). The adjusted cash back rebate still offers our clients unparalleled value and savings, while reflecting that additional services such as private tours require more time and coordination from the Unlocked team.
When arranging a private tour via our Concierge Plus service, we will ask buyers to:
Please contact us directly if you’d like to arrange for a private tour of a Bay Area home.
The Escrow and Closing Process
Under applicable federal, state and Bay Area guidelines, activities required to facilitate a real estate transaction have been deemed "essential activities". As such, the escrow and closing process is proceeding (more or less) as usual, though a number of accommodations are being made in the industry to allow escrow and closing to occur entirely remotely. Banks and mortgage lenders are conducting their lending operations normally, albeit some are working from home. Many appraisers are working normally as well, though in some cases lenders have provided exceptions to allow appraisers to rely on listing photos of homes rather than visiting the home in person. Escrow and title officers are largely conducting business as usual, even while working from home. Signings of loan paperwork and closing documents (which normally would occur at an escrow office) are now being scheduled via mobile notary, who will observe social distancing practices. Bay Area county recorders offices are recording title deeds via eRecording systems and providing confirmations of title recording as usual. While in some cases we have seen slight delays to closing timing due to COVID-related challenges, in most cases escrow and closing activities are proceeding as scheduled.
New Construction Properties
New constructions sales are proceeding (more or less) normally during this time. Sales offices may be closed, but new construction sales agents are available to schedule private tours of model homes or other available units at their communities by appointment. Builders have suspended requirements that buyers’ agents accompany them in person on their visits to the community, and all interaction and sales negotiations between buyers’ agents and new construction sales teams are now happening virtually. In some cases, the current shelter in place orders are causing delays in construction and estimated close of escrow timing, but construction activities are still continuing at most Bay Area new construction communities, and closings are occurring regularly.
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