Can I Sell My House During The Coronavirus Pandemic? Yup!

Can I Sell My House During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

Despite popular belief, there isn’t a Government enforced ban on marketing or selling your property. At least, there isn’t right now (28th March 2020), according to their coronavirus guidelines. Similarly, as I covered last week, there isn’t any bans on landlords finding tenants during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

However, the Government does astutely warn us that, “Getting your home onto the market may be more challenging than usual in this period” and we should “prioritise safety”

Ahhhhh yes. Thank you for parting with such wisdom.

For all intents and purposes, the property market is still alive, albeit on life-support; it’s very slow and very different out there, but it’s still screeching along. So if for whatever reason NOW is the time for you to sell, or if you want to get a head-start in preparation for when the world revives, you still have options…

I need to sell my house, should I do it right now, during the cononravirus outbreak?

The reality is, if you want to sell right now – in the midst of a killer virus pandemic – there’s a good chance it’s out of necessity, and perhaps even desperation.

However, even if you’re not necessarily desperate to sell, there is actually no reason why you can’t drop your property into the market to test the murky waters. Whatever is happening right now is going to end (hopefully sooner rather than later), so there’s no harm in being productive and getting your ducks in a row in the mean time. Even if you don’t get an offer you’re willing to accept today, you can still get a head-start by queuing potential buyers for when the coast is clear.

But also, let’s not ignore the fact there are plenty of people out there sitting on cash, ready to spend, even during a crisis. In fact, especially during a crisis. Warren Buffet famously said:

Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful

High-street estate agents won’t be able to help you right now!

You probably won’t be surprised to discover that after the Government demanded every shop flogging “non-essential goods and services” to close their doors on the 24th March, high-street estate agents were one of the many to quickly nail the doors shut.

While that does limit your options, it doesn’t mean we don’t have any options…

How to market and sell your property during the coronavirus outbreak!

Option 1: use an online estate agent

In order to adapt with the current lock-down, many businesses are either focusing on their existing online services, or completely developing a new online presence from the ground-up, so they can continue to generate revenue. With so many isolating at home, there has never been so many people busy browsing online (granted, mostly to kill time).

Fortunately, the estate agency industry has been efficiently and successfully operating online for several years now, and actually, their business model is very workable with social-distancing, as most of the legwork is done over the internet, meaning there’s very little need for human contact.

So if you’re eager to sell right now, using an online estate agent might be the perfect (and only) solution for you.

If you’ve already used an online estate agent, like Purplebricks or Yopa (two of the most popular), then I don’t need to explain the concept, although you may need to slightly adjust the process to keep human interaction to the absolute minimal.

For those that haven’t used an online estate agent before, then perhaps now is the perfect time to ‘get with the times’ by using the hippest and most cost-effective method of selling your home in this digital age. You can read my complete guide on online estate agents (but I recommend doing that after you’re done with this blog post).

Here’s how an online estate agent can work for you right now:

  • Sign up – first and foremost, you’ll need to sign up to an online estate agent (there are plenty to choose from, starting from a very reasonable £99) so they can get your property listed on the biggest UK property portals, like Rightmove & Zoopla.

    That’s where most estate agents, both online and high-street, generate their enquiries.

  • Photography – many online estate agents will provide a professional photography service, either as standard or as an add-on.

    Yes, this process does involve a professional stranger making a home-visit to take the photos. I know, I know, “what about social-distancing, you pillock?”

    I hear you loud and clear.

    My thoughts:

    • If you’re prepared to allow a photographer into your house (providing the service is still available – many will have pulled the plug on it), then keep your distance (obviously). I also recommend leaving all the doors to each room open, so the photographer doesn’t need to touch any door handles etc.
    • Take the photos yourself, but please do a proper job! If it will help, watch some YouTube tutorials on how to take professional pictures.

      One thing I will say is that pictures can make or break a sale; high-quality pictures are statistically proven to positively impact the volume of enquiries. So please, for the love of God, do not whip out your iPhone 5 and rely on wonky, poorly lit, and poorly composed images. You will kill your campaign before it even begins and essentially throw your money down the drain on marketing costs.

  • Virtual valuations and viewings – some online agents will not provide this service, but I’ve noticed others have quickly introduced it in light of the coronavirus to help obey social distancing principles. I suspect most of them will soon enough, though.

    Essentially, they’ll arrange it so protective buyers can view the property through video footage. If they don’t offer the service, you can record a tour of your property with a video recording device – a smartphone will even do in this case.

    Here’s a quick ‘How to’ guide by the online letting agent Howsy:

  • Enquiries – once you start receiving enquiries, respond to each with a with a link to your virtual tour (you won’t be able to embed the link to your video in your Rightmove/Zoopla listing, so this will be your opportunity to share the video).

    Find out who is still interested after they have watched the virtual tour. You’ll probably lose a few unimpressed civilians, but that’s okay.

  • Viewings – the purpose of providing the virtual tour is to whittle away the tyre-kickers and retain the genuine prospective buyers, so you don’t arrange more viewings than necessary.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see any way of actually avoiding viewings altogether, because it’s unlikely any legitimate buyer of sane mind will be willing to open their wallet on such a grand purchase without a real life inspection. We’re not selling peanuts here. However, it’s entirely possible to format viewings so they’re reasonably safe and adhere to social distancing measurements.

    Some buyers may wish to take immediate viewings, others may wish to wait, and you may also have a preference. If you don’t want to take any real viewings, you can build a prospective list and notify each interested party that you will get in touch to arrange a viewing when the external forces have settled down.

    I do want to make it crystal clear what the Gov’s stance is on viewings:

    If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale but you should not allow people in to view your property.

    There should not be any visitors into your home, and you should therefore not let people visit your property for viewings. Your agent may be able to conduct virtual viewings and you could speak to them about this possibility.

    So the Government is against viewings, but if you if you’re willing to take the risk, a couple of tips:

    • If you have multiple viewings arranged, stagger them days apart from one another.
    • Keep a sensible distance from all applicants on arrival, and there’s no need to shake hands.
    • If the property is empty, I recommend leaving the front door open so they can freely enter and view the property without you following them around. You can even wait outside.
    • If the buyer has any questions, you can either schedule a phone call for later or kindly ask them to email you. I ‘spose you can have a conversion 2 meters apart, too. Do whatever you’re most comfortable with, while keeping safety in mind.
    • Advise them kindly not to touch any surfaces.
    • Leave all the internal doors open, so door handles don’t need to be touched in order to access rooms/cupboards.
    • Advise all viewers on how you plan on conducting the viewings so there is no confusion or shocks on arrival. For their peace of mind, it’s also worth informing them of the lengths you have gone to in order to put their safety first during the viewing (e.g. sterilising the door handles).

Conveyancers, Surveyors and Removals Firms

I want to point out that it might be better just to secure a buyer right now, or at least generate a list of prospective buyers, so you keep human-interaction to a minimal and then utilise your head-start for when the world gets back to normal.

That said, it is possible to push through with the entire sale, although that will require further considerations while practising social-distancing, so it’s best to seek advice from the Government’s guidelines on how to manage that, which includes how to manage conveyancing, surveying and removal firms.

Option 2: sell to a property cash-buying company

This option comes with plenty of caution, and the only reason I’m even mentioning it is because of my presumption that the market is likely occupied with adamant and desperate sellers. If that’s the case, this might be a workable solution.

A typical property cash-buying company (also known as a “we buy any home” company) will do the following:

  • Buy your property for cash for 70% – 85% of the market value
  • Guarantee a cash offer
  • Achieve completion in 7 – 14 days (that’s how quickly you can have the cash in your account)
  • Consider buying any property in any condition and location
  • Manage all legal paperwork

While selling to a property cash-buying company isn’t an ideal solution, because you’ll have to sell for considerably less than the market value, it is one of the most reliable ways of achieving a very quick cash sale.

For more information, please visit my guide on property cash buying companies, which also lists the best rated companies.

Please note, the Government’s guidance for people buying or selling private residential homes may change as the coronavirus situation develops, so I recommend using their guidelines for the latest information.

Best of luck everyone!

Stay safe, stay sterile, my friends xo

Coronavirus: what you need to do!

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