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Selling Your Home in the Age of Coronavirus? Here Are All Your Top Questions, Answered

June 4, 2020

Selling FAQs During Coronavirus

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With every day of this pandemic feeling like it brings a fresh batch of news, you’d be forgiven for feeling confused about the actual state of things now. While many cities start to reopen—and some continue to experience a high volume of new COVID-19 cases—it’s hard to know how any sector of the economy is doing, especially the real estate market.

Are things getting back to normal? Is now an OK (or even appropriate) time to consider selling a home? Whether you’re curious about the timing of a sale or the nitty-gritty details of how it will all go down, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve gathered advice from the real estate experts to answer your most pressing questions about selling a home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Can I sell my house during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Selling a house should always be based on a number of factors, particularly with regard to your family’s health and financial situation. But to cut to the chase: Yes, you can still sell a home during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly now that states are beginning to reopen.

In most markets, inventories are low and prices are high—which means you can still make a profitable sale.

“Now’s a great time to sell,” says Michelle Sloan, a broker and a Realtor® who’s with Re/Max Time Cincinnati. “With low inventory and high buyer interest, many homes are selling very quickly—within days or hours in some cases. Interest rates are also low, and there’s serious pent-up demand for homes, especially in lower price ranges.”

Is it safe to sell your home during such an outbreak?

Home selling safety during coronavirus
Selling your home during a pandemic means extra precautions.

Siriporn Carrelli/Getty Images

You might be asking yourself if it’s safe to go through the traditional home showing and selling process. Assuming your family members are all in good health, there are several precautions your real estate agent can take to safely show your home to interested buyers.

“We’re allowing showings, but with safety in mind,” Sloan says.

For her team, that means no overlapping showings, no children in the house, masks on, shoes off, and hand sanitizer at the door. She also recommends people leave all of their lights on and doors open (even for closets), since this translates into fewer surfaces being touched.

Are houses even selling now?

Yes! The fact is that people still need to move, pandemic or no pandemic. For instance, in Austin, TX, at least 400 homes “and counting” are closing every single week, reports Regine Nelson with Wealthward Realty.

“Austin is low on inventory; we still have more people moving here than we have housing available,” she says.

Other markets, like Tampa, FL, are seeing a similar trend in sales.

“Houses are definitely selling now,” says Nadia Anac, a Realtor with Reagan Realty. “In my market, I’ve even been in multiple-offer situations.”

The key to these kinds of numbers seems to be in the inventory: Markets with low inventory are seeing houses sold quickly. As always, we’d recommend chatting with a local real estate agent to get the pulse on exactly how your market is performing.

Should I sell my house during a recession?

Since this recession is largely dictated by the pandemic, it’s almost impossible to keep the two separate. But if you do decide to sell during this period of economic downturn, take the time to consider your own financial stability, as well as the conditions of the market you’re moving to.

“If you planned to sell your home due to relocation, a short sale, or moving for larger space, then I would recommend proceeding—but with caution,” says Nelson. “Do you have another home or area in mind? Always be sure to see if what you are seeking is available or will be available when you’re ready to find a property to purchase.”

And while the buyer pool has undoubtedly shrunk in the past few weeks, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Homes are still selling, but lending requirements have tightened, meaning buyers are more qualified and ready to move forward,” says Karen Parnes, owner of NextHome Your Way.

Will I have competition if I try to sell my house right now?

home selling competition
Even during a pandemic, you can expect some competition from other sellers.

georgeclerk/Getty Images

“You’re likely to have much less competition as a seller right now,” Parnes says, since potential sellers are still wary about putting their homes on the market amid a pandemic. (These conditions are expected to change as summer ramps up; more on that later.)

But Nelson advises her clients to avoid getting caught up in the competition, and focus instead on the things they can control—like competitive pricing, getting their home in a good state, and having a solid marketing strategy.

Another point to remember? Competition happens on both sides of the street.

“Once you sell, you’re way more likely to have competition as a buyer,” says Parnes.

Should I expect to sell for less right now?

Not necessarily. Although the economy’s experiencing a recession, that doesn’t mean prices are going down.

“There are less buyers, but there are also a lot less homes on the market,” says Parnes. “The old rule of supply and demand still holds.”

While some predicted a price drop for 2020, experts now expect the summer home-buying market to be much hotter than expected, as many Americans feel more secure in their jobs and can physically step into the homes they are considering.

While you might not have to drop your price, Anac reminds her clients that they may need to be more patient in pursuing a good sale.

“If your house is priced correctly, and depending on your market, it may just take a little bit longer to sell,” she says.

How can I sell my house without allowing buyers to walk through?

virtual tours
If you’re selling, now’s the time to make the most of virtual tours.

dem10/Getty Images

It may be the safest option, but it’s not the easiest to pull off. Understandably, buyers want to see the home they’re buying in person. And no, telling them they can walk the property without entering won’t help matters much.

“It’s mostly impossible to sell your home with no showings or [prospective buyers] in the home at all,” says Parnes, although she admits “real estate transactions are still happening in states where showings are not allowed and being done completely virtually.”

If you have special health concerns or live with someone who’s considered high-risk, talk with your real estate agent about the possibility of virtual showings. Otherwise, consider just cleaning up thoroughly after would-be buyers leave.

Should I stage my house?

virtual stage kids room after
This room was virtually staged with furniture for adults.

VHT Studios

“Staged homes always sell faster,” says Anac, “but especially in times like these.”

The real question isn’t whether you should stage your house, but how you should stage it. With more tours and showings happening online, you might consider having your home virtually staged rather than actually inviting people into your home to decorate it.

How can I prepare my home for a virtual tour?

A virtual tour can run the gamut from a live walk-through with an agent on FaceTime to a sophisticated 3D rendering from companies such as Matterport. But for the most part you want to prepare for a virtual tour the same way you would for a still-photo shoot—by decluttering it, upping the curb appeal, and making sure nothing is broken or an eyesore.

“Make sure everything is clean, all lights are turned on, fans are off, blinds are open, surfaces are cleared, and everything is put away,” advises Anac.

How can I close remotely?

States are handling remote closings a little differently, so the short answer is to ask your real estate agent. The long answer: The way settlements are being handled varies quite a bit.

“Some, but not all, states have remote settlements,” says Parnes. “Some have approved it temporarily, and those that don’t are typically splitting the buyers and sellers at settlement and having only the essential people involved at the table.”

Looking for more advice on selling your home in the age of COVID-19? We’ve got you covered.

The post Selling Your Home in the Age of Coronavirus? Here Are All Your Top Questions, Answered appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How to Clean Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home Without Burning Out Emotionally

May 2, 2019

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After the loss of a loved one, the thought of sorting through that person’s belongings can be heart-wrenching. But in many situations, there’s no time to delay, especially if you’re in a time crunch to get a late family member’s house ready to sell.

Before you embark on the emotional task of sorting through a loved one’s possessions, check out these tips from experts on where to begin the process, how to find support and resolve disputes, and—most importantly—how to take it easy on yourself as you grieve.

Give yourself time, but don’t delay the process

At a time like this, sorting through your loved one’s closets and cabinets is probably the last thing on your mind. Don’t push yourself too hard to get started before you’re ready, but don’t put the task off indefinitely, either.

“It’s very individual, but if you can emotionally, it’s better to start cleaning out the house sooner [rather] than later,” says Vickie Dellaquila, a certified professional organizer and author of “Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash.”

“I’ve seen people that hold onto a house for years and years and work just a little bit at a time. For a lot of people, that’s harder because it keeps weighing on them.”

Dellaquila suggests starting with the easy stuff (e.g., things in the pantry or the garage). “Anything that’s low-hanging fruit that’s not emotionally charged,” she says.

As you begin sorting through sentimental items, give yourself time to grieve and experience your feelings; you don’t want to push yourself to make big decisions about what to keep and what to let go of before you’re ready.

“I remember when I went through my father’s items, there were days I just couldn’t bear to go through more of his things,” says Jen Robin, founder and CEO of Life in Jeneral, a professional organizing company. “There were some … items I was not ready to go through.”

If you find yourself hitting a wall, put items in a box and go back to them when you’re ready.

Ask for help

Clearing out a loved one’s home is a massive undertaking, but many people attempt to do it alone. Don’t underestimate the emotional (and physical) effort involved, and don’t be shy about asking for help when you need it.

“When we experience strong emotions, it’s harder to make decisions and think clearly,” says Lisa Zaslow, founder and CEO of Gotham Organizers, in New York. “Friends and professionals who are more objective about the situation can help get you through the process.”

Bring in a friend who can toss items like toothbrushes and expired food. For larger items, you may want to call in the pros. A professional organizer can manage the process from start to finish, while movers and trash haulers can remove the big-ticket items you don’t want, Zaslow says.

You can also work with estate sale professionals to help sell valuables, and shredding companies can come in to dispose of old papers and sensitive documents.

Keep it or toss it? How to decide when emotions are raw

When a loved one dies, the last thing we want to do is get rid of everything that reminds us of them.

“You don’t want to toss everything right away, because you’re not processing your emotions, so later you’ll think, ‘Oh boy, maybe I shouldn’t have let go of that,’” Dellaquila says. But, she adds, “you do not have to be a curator of your mother or your father.”

If you’re torn about whether to part ways with something, Dellaquila suggests holding onto just a piece of it—for example, keep a single place setting rather than the full china set. That way, you can hold onto an item that reminds you of your loved one without taking on something you don’t have space for.

Finally, resist the urge to keep anything out of obligation. If you won’t use it, let it go.

“One of my clients felt that she should keep some designer purses of her mom’s, even though she knew she would never use them,” Zaslow says. “Instead, I helped her sell them, and she donated the proceeds to a charity in her mom’s name.”

Get ahead of disputes

When siblings start sorting through a parent’s belongings, the situation can get tense. What if you both want that love seat or those crystal Champagne flutes?

One way to work through disputes: Take a gym class approach to divvying up items.

“The fair thing to do is put the items out and each person takes a turn in choosing one,” Dellaquila says. “I did that with my grandfather, who was an artist. We had a lot of sketches, and we went around and chose one, then somebody took the next turn.”

If you’re feuding over a single item that can’t be split up, you could attempt a shared-custody approach. But ultimately, you have to decide whether the item is really worth a bitter fight.

“Would your loved one really want you fighting over this china?” Dellaquila says. “It really is just a thing.”

For the living, death cleaning—a Swedish tradition that is catching on in the rest of the world—is one way you can spare your loved ones a future headache. The whole idea is to start cleaning out your clutter now. While you’re at it, you can even begin deciding who will eventually receive your possessions, beyond what’s designated in your will.

“A lot of people do that by putting little stickies on the bottom of items,” Dellaquila says. “Orange is for Mary, blue is for Mike.”

Give yourself space to grieve

As you make a plan for cleaning out the space, remember that you’ll also need time to step back to reflect and recharge. Biting off more than you can chew is a recipe for emotional burnout. Instead, give yourself limits from the start—maybe you clean only one room a day, or you work for just a few hours at a time.

“Creating a goal allows you to see small results and wins,” Robin says. “This is such a mentally draining process, so setting boundaries for yourself is very important.

“There is no easy process of getting rid of a loved one’s personal belongings,” she adds. “Make sure to take your time and allow yourself to feel all the emotions along the way.”

The post How to Clean Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home Without Burning Out Emotionally appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Should You Buy a Smoker’s House? How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smells

August 3, 2018

Ashtray in Smokers House

artisteer/ istock

Should you buy a smoker’s house? This question may confront you once you feel you’ve found the perfect place … except for that ashtray smell permeating every single room. Is this a deal breaker?

If the smell of cigarette smoke makes you recoil, you’re not alone: One study found that smoking in a home can reduce its resale value by up to 29%.

Still, once a smoker moves out, will the pall of cigarette odor lift, or will it linger? Is there a way to get rid of that stench for good? Answers ahead.

Health impacts of thirdhand smoke in a home

That smell of cigarettes long past isn’t, in fact, just a smell—it’s a residue called thirdhand smoke (THS).

“The lingering odor isn’t just unpleasant; studies have also linked it to cancer,” says Joshua Miller, director of technical training at Rainbow International, a home restoration company.

Tobacco-specific nitrosamines and nitrous acid are two of the biggest threats that cling to walls, dust, and other surfaces within a house. THS residue exposure can be especially dangerous for pets and small children, who often pick up dust and particulate matter on their hands or paws, and then put them in their mouth.

Worst of all, the effects just don’t pass.

“You could breathe in several hundred nanograms of these carcinogens long after the last cigarette burned out,” says Miller.

Just how long afterward? In one study, researchers at San Diego State University measured thirdhand smoke pollutant levels in smokers’ homes after they’d moved out. These pollutants remained even after the homes had been cleaned and vacant for two months. True, THS levels had diminished in that time, but they were still present at higher levels than in nonsmokers’ homes.

Signs of a smoker’s house

Sellers are not required to disclose that a home has housed a smoker, so if you’re worried about it, be sure to keep an eye—and nose—out for it. A smoky smell is an obvious sign, of course, but a strong smell of Febreze, air fresheners, or other fragrances could mean that the seller is trying to mask an odor. A fresh coat of paint can also mask cigarette odors, but they will eventually return.

Ask your home inspector to give you his opinion about whether someone has smoked in a house you are interested in. You are totally within your rights to ask the seller’s listing agent directly; a reputable professional should not lie about the condition of the home.

Should you buy a smoker’s house?

When you’re deciding whether to buy a smoker’s home, you should weigh not only the health risks, but what’s involved in getting rid of cigarette smells. Even if you’re getting a good deal on the price of the home, it’ll take some concerted work to eliminate the odor.

How to get rid of cigarette smell in a house

Getting rid of cigarette odor isn’t easy, since it seeps into everything. Cleaning can help, but replacing entire systems may be in order. Here’s what you can do to eliminate thirdhand smoke.

HVAC system

In a smoker’s house, every part of the central air system has come into contact with smoke over the years, explains Richard Ciresi, owner of Aire Serv in Louisville, KY. Here are some steps you can take to rectify this:

  • “Clean the air ducts,” says Ciresi. “Professional air duct cleaning is an effective way to eliminate odors that manifest when you turn on the furnace or AC.”
  • Change the filter on your HVAC unit. Normally, you would do this every few months. If you’re trying to fight the smell of thirdhand smoke, step that up to every 30 to 45 days.
  • Clean the evaporator coil. “Fumes can be pulled into the evaporator coil of an HVAC unit. The odor permeates the coil, and blasts the smell of cigarettes every time you run the air conditioner,” says Ciresi.
  • If nothing else fixes the problem, you may need to replace the system entirely. Of course, replacing your HVAC isn’t cheap. Expect to spend anywhere from $6,000 to $18,000, depending on your home’s size and the climate where you live.

Wash walls and ceilings

Miller recommends cleaning the walls and ceiling with a 3:1 vinegar-water mixture.

“Ceilings can be the biggest culprit in a persisting smoke smell in a home, since cigarette smoke tends to travel upwards and latch onto the first surface it comes in contact with,” he explains.

Trisodium phosphate (TSP), a strong, general-purpose cleaning product, is also great for removing smoke smell and stains.

Change lightbulbs

Smelly dust can fuse onto lightbulbs as they get hot, so change them out. Windows can also retain a smoky film that emits odor when they’re warmed by sun, so be sure to give them a thorough washing. Blinds can also be washed with vinegar or TSP—or, better yet, throw them out.

Paint

If washing doesn’t eliminate the smell from walls and ceilings, then your next best bet is to repaint them all, first sealing in the smell with an odor-neutralizing primer like Kilz. Without the layer of primer, the smell will eventually seep back through the paint.

Clean floors and carpets

“You can sprinkle a deodorizing powder like baking soda on carpets,” says Miller. If that doesn’t work, try a professional steam clean. In the worst-case scenario, the carpets will have to be replaced.

For wood or tile, a normal cleaning with the recommended cleaner should do the trick. Be sure to vacuum up all the dust from every nook and cranny, as the dust contains the harmful (and stinky) chemicals.

Wash curtains and drapes

Fabric tends to hold onto the smoke smell, so you’ll probably need to clean all the window treatments. Depending on the fabric, some can be washed in the washing machine, while others have to be steam cleaned. You can rent a steamer, or hire a professional to take care of this for you. If cleaning doesn’t completely get the smell out, they’ll have to be replaced.

Get an air filter

Ciresi also recommends getting an indoor air filter, preferably with a HEPA filter and charcoal odor prefilter. A dehumidifier can reduce smoke smell in humid weather.

The post Should You Buy a Smoker’s House? How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smells appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.