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 How to Sell, Buy and Rent in a COVID-19 Environment

How to Sell, Buy and Rent in a COVID-19 Environment

By Lauren Horky on Apr 01 2020


Whether you are looking to sell, buy or rent a property, the confusion around COVID-19 has only increased over the last few weeks. But the real estate industry managed to adjust at a rapid pace and switched to a mostly digital environment.

So what is possible or not in a COVID-19 environment? How can things be done? And who can help me? In this guide, we will look at the impact of the new restrictions on the property market and answer all the questions you might have on:

1. Selling your home
2. Buying a home
3. Renting a home  

Sell My Home

Can I sell my home during COVID-19?

Yes, you can still sell your home or investment property.

The new rules to contain the spread of the coronavirus may have changed some of the ways we buy and sell real estate, but it is still business as usual. The industry has adjusted and made the switch to a mostly virtual environment.

From now on, and for as long as the COVID-19 restrictions are in place, most activity will happen online. You will be able to get a virtual appraisal of your home, sign your documents electronically, conduct virtual tours and live viewings using video communication apps or software like FaceTime and Zoom, and sell your property by private treaty or virtual auction on a dedicated platform.

However, if you absolutely need to meet with your local real estate agent, or if a buyer wishes to inspect a property in person before potentially making an offer, this is still possible. You will be able to request one-on-one appointments, during which all government social distancing and hygiene measures will be strictly applied.

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Are all the methods of sale still available to sell my property?

If you wish to list your home for sale, you will generally still have access to the three main methods of sale: by auction, by private treaty or by expression of interest (EOI).

The only and main difference is that auctions will now, and for as long as the coronavirus restrictions are in place, take place mostly virtually. Your property will be listed for sale on an online real estate auction portal, where the virtual auction will take place when the day comes to sell.

However, if a public auction is being held, outdoors or indoors, social distancing and strict hygiene protocols will be observed.

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What are the best ways to promote my home for sale in this environment?

COVID-19 or not, online tools and resources should always make a big part of your marketing campaign. However, with the COVID-19 restrictions now in place, digital marketing has become the only way to promote your home for sale.

This doesn't mean that you won't be able to market your property as well as you would normally. On the contrary, you might even end up doing it better. Use all the resources available to you to create digital assets for your campaign: virtual tours, videos, floorplans, social media tiles, etc.

To promote them, think real estate portals such as Realestate.com.au, Domain or LJ Hooker, social media campaigns, email marketing. Word of mouth has not lost any of its efficiency, so call, text, or email your family, friends, neighbours, etc. As people are still allowed to get outside, a signboard in front of your property might also be useful.

As usual, your local real estate agent will be your best ally to guide you and create the best marketing campaign for your property.

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How can I know how much my property is worth?

If you wish to sell your home but are unsure about its current value, the best way to figure it out is to get an appraisal from your local real estate agent. It will give you a precise indication of how much your property is worth.

Appraisals can now be done virtually by using video communication apps and software such as FaceTime, Zoom or WhatsApp. They can also still be done in-person, as long as all the government social distancing and hygiene regulations are strictly respected.

If you would like a free expert property appraisal, get in touch today with your local LJ Hooker real estate agent. To make sure you feel safe and comfortable, we offer this service both in-person and virtually.

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How will my real estate agent run home inspections with the COVID-19 restrictions in place?

You real estate agent will have three main options available to run home inspections:
    •    Virtual tours and videos
    •    Live viewings
    •    One-of-one private inspection by appointment

Virtual tours and videos can sometimes be enough to give potential buyers all the information they need about the property.

Live viewings allow a more interactive experience, as they allow buyers to get immediate answers to all the questions they may have. The real estate agent will conduct these viewings using apps and software such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom or Facebook Live. Potentially, buyers will also be able to request private live viewings for a more personalised experience.

If a buyer really wishes to see the property in-person, then one-on-one private inspections are also available. These private inspections will be conducted following all government social distancing and hygiene regulations.

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I've heard about online real estate auctions. How do they work and are they as efficient as "in-person" auctions?

Online or virtual real estate auctions have been around for years. They work the same way as in-person auctions, but give buyers the opportunity to bid in the comfort of their own home (or wherever they may be as long as they have access to the Internet). LJ Hooker has held many successful online auctions, and we expect to see a continued upward trend.

As the seller, you will be able to log into the virtual auction platform to follow the interactive bidding happening in real-time. Every step of the way, you will know exactly what is going on.

Increasingly, buyers appear comfortable bidding behind a screen. This can be because technology has always been an integral part of their lifestyle, or because they feel like it minimises the pressure that an in-person auction would put on them.

At the end of the day, the success of an auction comes down to the agent gathering the bidders, the vendor and the stock.

As an example, LJ Hooker recently sold 22 Fowler Road, Merrylands (NSW). This property was auctioned virtually using the Auction Now platform. After 51 bids between 8 registered bidders online and via telephone, it finally sold for $1,251,000, which undoubtedly exceeded the owners' expectations. The buyer had inspected the property via a virtual tour at 9.30pm the night before the auction.

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Should I wait until after COVID-19 has passed to sell my home?

The real estate market is still very active. And, with less competition, there will always be opportunities for the sellers wishing to list or keep their home on the market.

Indeed, many potential buyers will be at home with time on their hands, connected to the Internet almost 24/7. They will have more time to spend looking at listings on real estate portals and websites. That means that if you do decide to sell, there will be a captive audience out there to view your property.

Moreover, thanks to interest rates at record lows, there will definitely be buyers looking to purchase a home or an investment property while there is also less competition for them.

In this new landscape, refining your selling strategy is an imperative to achieve the best outcome possible. Working on this with your real estate agent will allow you to stay ahead of the competition and cultivate the best decision-ready buyers.

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Key Takeaways

  • During COVID-19, private treaty and online auctions are the main ways to sell your home or investment property
  • Virtual tours and live viewings are the main ways to inspect a home, but in-person private inspections are also available
  • Social media and email marketing should be your main channels when it comes to marketing your home for sale
  • The market is still active with less competition from other sellers and buyers enjoying more time to house-hunt and record-low interest rates
  • If you are unsure about the worth of your home, you can request a free property appraisal with your local LJ Hooker real estate agent (virtual or in-person)
  • Rely on your local real estate agent to guide you through your selling journey

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Buy a home

How can I buy a home during COVID-19?

Yes, you can still buy a home or an investment property.

Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, you should even get access to more information than ever to help you make the best decision. Most sellers will create virtual tours for their properties and offer live viewings, as it will become the norm.

If you find your dream home, or if you would like to know more about a property that retained your attention, get in touch with the real estate agent by email or on the phone to discuss the next steps.

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How can I inspect a home I am interested in?

Virtual tours and videos are tools that more and more sellers will start using. These are perfect to give potential buyers a great insight into the home they are looking to purchase.

Most real estate agents will also organise live viewings. They will use video communication apps and software such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Facebook and Instagram live. Buyers will get the opportunity to ask the real estate agent to look at precise features in the property and have all their questions answered on the spot.

Facebook Live also offers the added bonus of being recorded. Replays will be available on the real estate agent's Facebook page as soon as the live ends for people not available at the time of the inspection or wishing to have another look.

However, if you really wish to inspect the property in-person, most real agents will be able to offer one-on-one home inspection by appointment. These private inspections will be conducted following all government social distancing and hygiene regulations.

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How can I make an offer on a home I would like to buy?

If you wish to make an offer on a property or start negotiations with a seller, you can do it the exact same way you usually would. The only difference is that most activity during your buying journey will likely happen online and over the phone.

If you are unsure about how to proceed, or if you wish to get the ball rolling, simply get in touch with the real estate agent in charge of selling the property.

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Is there a risk in buying a home only using online tools and resources?

No matter how you buy a home, you need to seek independent advice. However, even before the coronavirus outbreak, many people were purchasing properties sight unseen. The reasons were that they might have been interstate, overseas or simply unable to attend an open home before buying it.

These days, in a COVID-19 environment, the way you inspect a property has changed, but not the way you actually purchase it (even if this happens with an online auction). Indeed, what matters most when buying a home is making sure that the property is structurally sound and is all that it appears to be on the surface. Despite the lockdown, all the standard procedures and checks remain (such as pest and building reports).

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Can I still get a home loan in a COVID-19 environment?

Interest rates are at record lows and banks are still very eager to lend and secure quality borrowers. Moreover, they also have access to a $90 billion stimulus package from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

This makes getting a loan easy, as long as you have a secure job and a good credit history.

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Should I wait after COVID-19 ends to buy a home?

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 environment, some buyers will hold off on deciding to purchase a property. Therefore, it could be a good time to look for a home or an investment property as competition from other buyers could be softer.

The coronavirus pandemic should also create opportunities to make better deals, as some homeowners will be forced to sell. These sellers can be people who might have already bought another property to live in or found another job elsewhere.

Just like it was the case before COVID-19, buyers can also benefit from interest rates at record lows. This means that if you are financially stable, now could be the best time to buy a home.

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Key Takeaways

  • Virtual tours and live viewings are the best ways to inspect a property, but in-person private appointments are also available
  • Buying using exclusively online tools and resources isn’t riskier than buying in-person as all the main procedures and checks remain
  • If you need a home loan, you can benefit from record-low interest rates and banks very eager to lend to quality borrowers
  • Softer competition and record-low interest rates will lead to great opportunities for financially stable buyers
  • Rely on your local real estate agent to guide you through your buying journey

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Rent a home

What does the 6-month moratorium on evictions mean for tenants?

The 6-month moratorium means safety and security for tenants. It prevents landlords from evicting people unable to pay rent due to financial distress as a result of the COVID-19 environment. If you have exhausted all financial relief subsidies and are still falling short, you will still have the comfort of knowing that your home is safe no matter what.

However, this doesn't mean that late rental payments won't have to be paid after the moratorium ends. This is why it is crucial to always communicate with your property manager if you are (at risk of) facing hardship. This way, you will be able to work on finding a solution together and prevent the situation from becoming critical after the moratorium ends.

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My work arrangement has changed. What options are available to alleviate the stress of making rental payments?

First of all, remember that the 6-month moratorium will prevent you from being evicted, so you will always have a home during this difficult time.

The Government has announced that people and businesses can apply for wage subsidies to assist those affected by the coronavirus crisis. You should look at and make enquiries on:
    •    Income support for individuals
    •    Payments to support households
    •    Reducing social security deeming rates

However, if you are still worrying or in a position where you cannot pay the rent, get in touch as soon as possible with your property manager. Together, you will be able to explore the options and work on a plan. By being transparent and communicating early on about your financial distress, you will manage to bypass potential issues before they arise.

If you show good faith and because this situation is unprecedented, most landlords should be willing to compromise. If they can afford it, some might even be ready to negotiate a temporary rental reduction to help you get through this tough time.

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What does the 6-month moratorium on evictions mean for landlords?

The whole concept of the moratorium is about keeping people safe and secure during this unprecedented time. Due to different legislations, each state and territory will respond with their specifics. Still, there are many government subsidies available to tenants to help them pay their rent.

If you are a landlord with tenants having exhausted all those avenues and coming to you with a plan, we suggest that you:
    •    Get in touch with your insurer and enquire about rental default cover. Be aware that, as of now, any insurance company still accepting new policies, is likely to have removed the section covering rental defaults. Seek independent advice.
    •    Speak with your financial advisor or accountant
    •    Contact your mortgage provider to discuss your options

If you are confused or unsure about what to do, and if you are renting your investment property through a real estate agency, then get in touch with your property manager. It is his role to help and guide you to navigate this COVID-19 crisis.

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How can I secure tenants during this economic downturn?

Even during the lockdown, your property manager will look to secure tenants by organising virtual home viewings, with online tenancy applications and electronic lease signing.

To make sure your property is chosen against the competition, review the rent prices asked for the nearby, similar properties for lease and ensure that your online presence is a standout. You and your property manager can look to use all the available resources such as virtual tours, professional photos, virtual staging, floorplans, etc. Also make sure to write a catchy, descriptive copy for your listing.

Put yourself in the shoes of potential renters looking to find a new home from the comfort of their couch and browsing through properties. You need to make sure that the experience they will get from your listing is as informative and lifelike as it can be.

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How can potential tenants inspect my property?

If you are trying to rent your investment property, you have the option to conduct open homes and viewings by private appointments only.

However, the easiest and safest way to find new tenants is to offer virtual tours of your property or organise live viewings. Your property manager may use platforms such as Virtual Tour Creator or video communication apps and software such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom or Facebook and Instagram live.

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What is going to happen with routine rental inspections?

Physical routine inspections are likely to become prohibited. However, property managers can still conduct virtual inspections using tools such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, etc. If they require a closer review of such or such feature or aspect of the property, they can request photos to be emailed to them.

At LJ Hooker, we started conducting routine inspections virtually with tenants who were self-isolating. It has proven to be a great experience. It is also an opportunity for tenants to ask any question or discuss any worry they might have about the property or their situation during this unprecedented time.

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Key Takeaways

  • Tenants that are facing hardship in this COVID-19 environment are guaranteed to keep their home for the next six months thanks to the moratorium on evictions
  • If your work arrangement has changed and you are struggling to pay rent, look at the government subsidies or get in touch with your property manager
  • Landlords can still secure tenants by being competitive and using all the digital resources available to promote their property
  • Virtual tours and live viewings are the best ways to organise home inspections
  • Routine rental inspections are still taking place, but virtually
  • Don't hesitate to rely on your property manager to guide and help you during this unusual time

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DISCLAIMER - The information provided is for guidance and informational purposes only and does not replace independent business, legal and financial advice which we strongly recommend. Whilst the information is considered true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information provided. LJ Hooker will not accept responsibility or liability for any reliance on the blog information, including but not limited to, the accuracy, currency or completeness of any information or links.

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