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4 Steps to Safely Show Real Estate During a Pandemic

4 Steps to Safely Show Real Estate During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way real estate showings are managed. In some states, open houses are prohibited unless a property is unoccupied or vacant. Masks and social distancing are mandatory for prospective buyers and their agents. In other states, rules are looser for home tours and showings.

 

When you're allowed to conduct home showings and tours, take extra steps to protect your clients and yourself from coronavirus. Here are four steps to conduct the safest real estate showings while the pandemic is active.

 

Develop and Circulate Your Safety Plans

 

The National Association of Realtors and other property-related organizations have developed detailed guidelines to help agents and sellers create safe showing protocols. Read through professional materials on COVID-19 precautions to create individualized safety plans for your showings.

 

Safe property-showing protocols should include the following:

  • All parties must disclose if they have COVID-19 or potential symptoms.
  • All parties must wear masks during property tours.
  • Individuals must maintain six feet of distance from one another.
  • All parties must wash and/or sanitize hands before entry.
  • Prospective buyers should avoid touching any surfaces or items.
  • Tour groups are limited to up to four people.
  • Prospective buyers are prohibited from using bathrooms during tours.

 

After you or your real estate office create your safety protocols for home and property showings, make handouts, signage, emails, and other materials to spread the word about the behavior and safe practices you expect from your staff, prospective buyers, and property sellers. Since many people ignore such materials, cover your bases by verbally going over with buyers and sellers the rules for showings before you meet.

 

Double check that staff and clients understand the rules you've established to ensure safe showings. Allow buyers and sellers to ask questions, but be firm in your insistence that all parties adhere to your rules.

 

Carefully Plan Showing Blocks

 

While open houses are unsafe during a pandemic, proper scheduling of in-person tours limits the exposure of people and property to potential COVID-19 contamination.

 

Arrange property showings in two- to four-hour blocks of time. Schedule each party for a 15- to 30-minute tour of the premises. The staggered arrivals cut down on traffic outside yet allow two to four groups to view the home per hour.

 

Explain to buyers that they must remain in their vehicles until you invite them inside for their tour. Due to excitement about viewing a property, some buyers may ignore any external signs that state these rules.

 

If the sellers of properties are in high risk groups (elderly or immunocompromised), ask that no children be present during tours. While this may limit the number of potential buyers at block showings, you're protecting the buyer from potential COVID-19 transmission. When parents are distracted, kids can't be counted on to keep their hands off toys or avoid using toilets.

 

Set Up Safe Showing Environments

 

Plan ahead to prepare properties for the safest showings possible. Place signs outside of properties informing prospective buyers to remain outside until invited inside to take their tour. Inside properties, post signs that reiterate the property-tour rules.

 

All doors, curtains, cabinets, and closets should be opened before the block showings. All lights should be turned on as well. The owners of occupied properties can perform these tasks before the showings. In vacant properties, the agent should arrive ahead of schedule to prepare the properties.

 

Purchase the following items to have on hand at all showings:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Liquid hand soap
  • Paper towels
  • Proper face masks
  • Gloves
  • Disinfectant wipes and sprays

 

In some cases, sellers may ask that prospective buyers wear disposable booties over their shoes. Some sellers may request that prospective buyers take their shoes off and leave them at the front entrance.

 

All parties should use hand sanitizer before entering properties. Hand washing is also encouraged. The paper towels you purchased keep buyers from using towels or other linens in the home to dry their hands.

 

Bring along a small trash receptacle and box of liners. Keep the trash bin outside the front door of the property, so buyers can safely dispose of masks, gloves, and booties after their tours.

 

Disinfect Thoroughly After Showings

 

When a block showing is finished for the day, it's time to sanitize the property. Use disinfectant wipes to sanitize:

  • House keys
  • Door handles
  • Handrails
  • Cabinet pulls
  • Countertops
  • Sink faucets
  • Any other surfaces touched by tour groups

 

Encourage property owners to do their own disinfection processes after they return home (or to their commercial properties). Doubling the post-tour cleanup process means doubling the precautions against COVID-19 spread.

 

It's not easy to show properties during a pandemic. However, with advance planning, effective communication, diligent adherence to rules, and the proper supplies, you can conduct property tours while keeping yourself and others as safe as possible from potential coronavirus infections.

Can Your House Be Stolen on Paper? Yes, it can.

Can Your House Be Stolen on Paper? Yes, it can.

Home Title Fraud: What It Is, How It Works, What to Look for and How to Protect Yourself

 

You may have heard the late-night commercials warning you that your home could be stolen out from under you, that a thief could lay claim to your home's title and leave you bankrupt and in foreclosure. You may have even considered signing up for a protection service that monitors your deed and promises protection from this insidious form of identity theft. But is there any truth to all of this? Can thieves really sign on to your title and sell your home while you remain blissfully unaware?

 

The bad news is that home title fraud, also known as deed theft, is indeed real, and it is a growing threat to homeowners and to the owners of second homes and investment properties. If you own real estate, you do need to be aware of the dangers, and you do need to take steps to protect yourself.

 

The good news is that protecting yourself from home title fraud is not that difficult, and you do not necessarily need to hire someone to do it for you. If you prefer a totally hands-off approach and automatic protection, forking over $15 or $20 a month might be a good investment, but if you are willing to do a bit of sleuthing you can protect your home for free.

 

How Does Home Title Fraud Work?

 

Home title fraud or deed theft begins much the same way as other forms of identity theft. It starts when the criminal in question gleans personal information, generally gathered online. Armed with this personal information, the thief adopts the identity of the targeted homeowner, then forges signatures on legal documents to make it look like the property has been sold.

 

Once the thief has control of the title and the legal ownership of the property, they may sell the home or borrow against it. When the bill comes due and the payments are not made, foreclosure typically follows, leaving the actual homeowner on the hook, and in extreme cases out in the cold.

 

Watch Out for the Warning Signs

 

While some people make it seem like deed theft is a totally silent crime, that is not usually the case. There are generally warning signs to watch out for. If you are attuned to these warning signs, you could stop the title theft in its tracks, before the loans start and foreclosure proceedings begin.

 

It is important to note that the perpetrators of these kinds of schemes often target second homes, vacation homes and investment properties instead of primary residences. While primary residences can be stolen in this manner, they are not typically the target of deed thieves.

 

The idea is that homeowners may not pay close attention to their vacation properties during the off season, and that makes it easy for the warning signs to be ignored. Often the first warning sign is that the annual property tax bill does not come as scheduled, and while you may think that is good news it is something worth investigating.

 

You may also notice that you are no longer receiving water bills or normal utility payments on a summer home or investment property. Conversely, you may notice a sudden spike in utility bills from what should be a vacant home, a sign that someone has unwittingly purchased the property and moved in.

 

How to Protect Yourself

 

If you want to safeguard your home from the danger of title fraud, you could pay someone to keep an eye on your deed, or you could do the legwork yourself. Protecting your home is relatively easy; it just takes vigilance and a bit of discipline.

 

You can see if your home has already been targeted by a home title thief. To do that, simply go to the website maintained by the register of deeds in your county. From there you can look up your own deed, checking for documents that were not prepared or authorized by yourself or your attorney.

 

While you are on the website, see if your county provides a notification service for changes to your property status or alterations in any documents associated with your home. This essentially puts your deed theft protection on automatic, so you can simply watch your email or phone for notifications.

 

What to Do If You Are Victimized

 

Hopefully you will never receive such a notification from your county, and hopefully your home will never be targeted in this way. Even so, it is important to know what to do if you do become a victim of this insidious and potentially devastating crime.

 

If you think you have been victimized by home title theft, you should notify the register of deeds for your county immediately. You should also notify the local police department; home title theft is a serious crime and it is taken very seriously by the authorities.

 

In addition to these notifications, you should also request a certified copy of the fraudulent documents that were used to perpetrate the fraud. You will also want to contact a qualified real estate attorney; recovering from deed theft is not a DIY proposition.

 

Hopefully, you will never have your home targeted by criminals of any kind. If all goes well, your home will never be burglarized, and deed thieves will never steal your home out from under you. But knowing how this growing crime works, what to look for and how to protect yourself is the best way to be prepared, and the more you know the better off you will be.

 

Sell Your House Fast: 7 People You Need on Your Team

Sell Your House Fast: 7 People You Need on Your Team

So, you’ve decided to sell your home. Congratulations! Before you start playing with a mortgage calculator to see how much you can afford on your next home, you’ll want to know how to sell your current home fast. Ideally, you’re looking to list your home, generate interest quickly from potential buyers, and in a perfect world, a bidding war will ensue and you will get more than the asking price for your house. But before all of this can happen, you’re going to want to spend some time gathering a team of people who can help you along the way.
10 Steps to a Professionally Staged Kitchen

10 Steps to a Professionally Staged Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the first things home buyers look at, and if they do not like what they see they may never go beyond that room. If you have seen plenty of people at your open houses but still no buyers, it may be time to some professional staging.

You do not necessarily have to stage every part of your home, and if cash is tight full professional staging may not be possible. But focusing your staging efforts on the kitchen just might turn the tide, and here are 10 steps for kitchen staging success. 

Why You Should Have a Home Inspection on New Construction

Why You Should Have a Home Inspection on New Construction

Home inspection is very important to the general home buying process. Home inspection on new construction is even more important, as many mistakes could be made on new construction. 


Aren’t New Homes Built to Code? 

The reality is that many new homes are only built to minimum standards. Most home builders build houses to a level that makes the construction legal. Some do not even reach the legal level. The minimum required by law is going to be worse generally than what the best building practices are. A home inspector will be able to tell you what the quality is of your new construction. 

Throw Away That Real Estate Brochure Box

Throw Away That Real Estate Brochure Box

Visualize the listing ID number texted into the receiving text address, with an automatic text message reply linking to the online listing brochure.  The drive-up visitor doesn't have to leave the comfort of their car to get a much more detailed brochure about the home; it's never empty either.

Once the drive-by home shoppers leave, they're taking that text message home, and they can look at it later as much as they want, often generating a request for a showing.  All this is great and not terribly expensive, but there is more as well.