Timing is everything – as they say – and for those selling, or about to sell their houses, earlier this year the COVID-19 pandemic raised a unique set of challenges. Should you keep it on the market, or take a break and wait until later in the year? If you choose to sell now, open homes and auctions are allowed so at least that part is easy. Of course, the most important question is, ‘if you sell now, will you get the price you’re looking for?’ In March everyone’s head was abuzz with such questions. Now, as we approach mid-year, many of those questions have been answered and there is finally breathing space to make decisions about what to do next.
In the early stages of restrictions, there was a definite reduction beyond the normal number of homes for sale. With auctions banned for a 4-week period across the country, inevitably auction sales volumes showed significant drops. As May kicked off, however, some states started to ease back into auctions, with the rest expected to follow suit before winter begins. Despite the interruptions to market activity, house prices continued to rise and, according to CoreLogic, may only show a decline of around 10% from peak to trough. This is good news for those vendors itching to get things moving, but anxious to not put a foot wrong in an uncertain environment. “Chances are we will still see housing values remain relatively resilient to this downturn” explains CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless. “As long as Coronavirus is contained within three to six months”.
So, with that in mind, how do you sell moving forward? First of all, contact your agent for immediate support and advice about the next steps. They will be across the updated status of restrictions on a daily basis and can advise you immediately how best to proceed. All states and territories were quick to respond as restrictions were announced, with physical distancing and hygiene measures implemented immediately; along with alternative strategies for viewing properties and interacting with agents, vendors and buyers. Most of these digital strategies are now no longer needed, but you may still find some rental properties are difficult to access physically.
We have had key COVID-19 health protocols in place throughout the restriction period. Adjustments will be made as information about the progress of the pandemic becomes available, but it’s still possible and viable to sell your house, by following the strategies below:
1. Boost your online marketing – Agents are encouraging all prospective buyers to view properties online before requesting physical inspections – and online activity is up by about 40%. This means home staging, professional quality photography, 3D floor plans and virtual tours have become more important than ever. Your agent can refer you to trusted professionals they’ve used previously, and give you some tips about what would work best for your property.
2. Embrace technology to communicate – we are interacting online now like never before and avoiding unnecessary in-person interactions will continue to be a more sensible choice. Embrace phone and video calls, video conferencing and an estate agency’s online systems to manage discussions and negotiations.
3. Understand physical distancing at inspections – When you do visit an open home inspection, all First National Real Estate agents will have strict protocols in place. Attendees will be asked if they have recently returned from overseas, if they have been living with somebody who is self-isolating, and if they have any flu-like symptoms. Everyone in attendance will be instructed to maintain 1.5 metres distance between themselves and others at all times and we’ll ask you not to open any cupboards or touch anything.
4. Engage with hand and surface hygiene – there’ll be no handshakes like the good old days. Also, no touching of surfaces within the property. This means your agent will need to open things on request for the prospective buyers such as cupboards, doors, ovens, and windows. Although sanitisation stations are not compulsory, consider the risk and decide accordingly. Hand sanitiser dispensers are easier to come by now and a squirt on entry and exit has become commonplace in many businesses across the country. With all of this in mind, it’s worth having a frank discussion with your agent about the risks involved and weighing up the necessity to hold an open home.
5. Know the maximum attendance numbers – as home inspections once again became possible it was still required that the government’s recommendations on a maximum number of people in a given space were adhered to. State by state the numbers have varied, but as of early June, they are as follows:
NSW maximum of 50 people inside the property at once, including the agent
QLD maximum of 20 people inside the property at once, plus agency staff. On the 12th of June, this will increase to 20 people.
SA maximum of 10 people inside the property at once, including the agent
TAS maximum of 80 people inside the property at once, plus agency staff
VIC maximum of 20 people inside the property at once, plus agency staff.
WA maximum of 10 people inside the property at once, including the agent
The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions.