Agents using technology, caution to sell homes during pandemic

Local real estate agents are finding creative ways to facilitate the buying and selling of homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though recommended precautions against the spread of the virus make it difficult, or in some cases impossible, to conduct business as usual, people are still listing their homes on the market, and others are still buying.

Ruwena Healy and Missy Heard with RealtySouth have a home listed in Pelham, at 303 Kilkerran Lane in the Ballantrae development, and are using technology to try to sell it while taking necessary precautions.

In addition to providing gloves, masks, shoe covers and hand sanitizer when showing homes, and disinfecting afterward, Healy and Heard are taking advantage of cutting-edge technology.

Efforts include live video postcards, virtual reality home tours, 3D house staging, real-time and interactive virtual showings, virtual neighborhood walks and dedicated landing pages.

“It’s our job as agents to keep everybody calm and find safe ways to continue to market their home and ultimately sell their home,” Heard said. “We’re still selling homes. There are homes going on the market every day. It’s just taking the necessary precautions.”

The duo is showing the Ballantrae home to almost 100 other real estate agents via a “virtual caravan” using Zoom.

“People are still moving here,” Healy said. “We want to make sure we are still taking care of these families. We’re trying to accommodate and be creative.”

RealtySouth has an advantage of being a “one-stop shop” for real estate needs: mortgage, title, closing and even insurance.

RealtySouth’s sister company, TitleSouth, offers an online portal for digitally reviewing and even signing documents.

Closings can be completed with the parties in different rooms.

“Business is still open, RealtySouth is still open for business, it just looks different right now,” Heard said.

Amy Spinks with Realty Pros LLC said some agents are vetting clients as they would experience at a doctor’s office: ensuring they have no coronavirus symptoms and asking if they have recently been exposed.

“We’re just trying to be appropriate in the way we conduct business,” she said.

Spinks said there are concerns about the closure of the Shelby County Courthouse preventing title searches from being performed, which are necessary prior to closing.

Addendums can be added to contracts stating that the closing date may need to be delayed based on the pandemic situation.

Ultimately, agents are confident that the housing market will bounce back quickly once the pandemic is under control.

The problem at hand is not with the market but rather something that is affecting it. Once that hurdle is removed, home sales should take off again, the agents agreed.

“This situation is health-generated,” said Reida Underwood with RealtySouth. “It’s not housing market-generated. We’re going to recover much faster because the necessary structures are in place. This is more like a big snow that will melt.”

People losing their jobs is a concern, Spinks said, but some mortgage companies are offering forbearance programs to allow people to get back on their feet without losing their home to foreclosure.

“I hope this doesn’t turn into a long-term thing, but I’m optimistic that that won’t happen,” Spinks said.