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Carrying On, Business Unusual

If you walk into an open house in the near future, you may notice a few changes: more hand sanitizer or shoeless feet, and possibly face masks, gloves and booties. You likely won’t find any refreshments, and while you’ll be welcomed, don’t expect a handshake. The practice of Real Estate closings has been temporarily altered as well, with some signings taking place in outdoor locations—even from buyers’ and sellers’ cars!

Certainly, these are unprecedented times for Real Estate and its ancillary services—Mortgage, Title insurance and Escrow, Home Inspection and Appraisal— all deemed essential professional services by Governor Ducey. It’s  particularly challenging in retirement communities where many of our most vulnerable population resides. In the midst of the normal seasonal real estate peak, the COVID-19 pandemic has given active and prospective sellers pause to open their property to buyer visitation. 

Clearly there are signs of continued life in the real estate business of Tucson’s retirement communities. While a dozen area listings in the NW Tucson communities of SaddleBrooke, SaddleBrooke Ranch, and Sun City Vistoso were placed on a temporary off market status or cancelled after Governor Ducey issued a statewide Stay-at-Home order on March 30, an equal number of new listings sprang up in the two weeks prior to Easter. Priced-out Californians, as well as homebuyers from cities like Seattle and Denver, are still eagerly eyeing our housing market, but are currently hamstrung by their own states’ shelter-in-place mandates. 

Although traditional open houses are still permissible in the state of Arizona, they have become more difficult to promote.  On March 25, the Tucson Association of Realtors (TAR) disabled the Open House posting feature in its Multiple Listing Service (MLS), diminishing sellers’ ability to publicly advertise their open houses beyond neighborhood directional signs. To offset, the MLS launched a new Virtual Open House option which allow Realtors to utilize a video conferencing tool like Zoom to “meet” with prospective buyers. Presently, the National Association of Realtors is strongly encouraging agents to propose alternate marketing opportunities for their sellers’ consideration, including video walkthroughs and virtual tours.

If your property is currently listed or you need to sell your property in the near future, you may want to consider the following options:

  • Move Before You List: If you can, offering your property as a Vacant listing affords you, your agent and buyers peace of mind when showing your home; not to mention an easier time for the photographer, home inspector, repair technicians, appraiser and like involved in real estate marketing. *Note for Buyers: Please follow CDC and NIH guidelines as you would in any public space! 
  • Conduct Virtual Open Houses: More than ever, potential buyers are house shopping online. In addition to video walkthroughs linked to a property listing, agents may now schedule virtual open houses using an online communication service or event tool such as FaceBook, Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Prospective buyers can log in from their phone or computer to view a live walkthrough and ask questions. A 3-D Matterport virtual tour gives the buyer an immersive experience through the use of a multi-dimensional camera system. Homebuyers can even virtually measure the space! 
  • Allow In-Person Showing and Open Houses: Being that residents of communities like SaddleBrooke often move within the community, your prospective buyer could be a neighbor. Understand that opening your home (especially one you’re living in!)  during the pandemic is something that you and your Realtor must find mutually agreeable—weigh the risks and create safety guidelines that make you feel comfortable (such as requiring visitors to wear a mask and gloves or making sure they haven’t traveled recently.) These safety measures should be clearly communicated to potential buyers through their respective agents, with posted reminders of the seller’s preferences on site. (See House Showings graphic for suggested tips) *Note for Buyers: at present, it is advisable to only bring individuals directly involved in the home purchase and that buyers and their agents drive in separate vehicles. This is not a time for casual viewing.

Real Estate activity is currently down, but it is by no means out. A silver lining is that we will likely see greater creativity and cooperation between Real Estate professionals and their clients. An increase in virtual marketing activities could attract a wider homebuyer pool and potentially raise local real estate value. Meanwhile, let’s be thankful to live in such beautiful homes in extraordinary communities!


As published in SaddleBag Notes May 2020 by Beth Fedor, REALTOR

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