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We're in business (if not business as usual), Realtors say

Dave Noyes, president of the Hendersonville Board of Realtors, emphasizes that real estate sales are among the businesses declared essential, even if it isn’t business as usual.

“The home buying public will probably see a few changes in how they view homes while the stay-at-home order is in effect," Noyes says. "Their broker will probably have them view more homes online and watch virtual tours before seeing a home in person. There will probably be far fewer home showings, but people looking at homes will be more prepared and in a much more serious home buying position.”

Should people leave their own house to go into another person’s home under the stay at home order, or should they ride with their broker to see a house if it isn't essential?

"Probably not,” Noyes says. "At least not until the stay at home order is lifted.”

At first, Henderson County's stay-home order failed to make real estate sales essential. The Board of Commissioners restored home sales back when it modified the county's order to align with the governor's order.

"The market was essentially shut down for about five days" in late March, says Noyes, a broker with Re/Max Results. On March 30 and 31, a Monday and Tuesday, there were eight showings countywide. On a Monday and Tuesday in early February? 212.

Closings can take place at an attorney's office, with social distancing observed, or in driveways "and others are doing what they call 'send aways,'" said Noyes, an agent with . When there are last minute things to check, such as whether an agreed-upon repair got done, the real estate broker can go. "I'm their eyes and feet on the ground," he says.

There's no doubt sales are slower now, though.

"I would say we're going to be on a break and then the recovery is going to be very rapid," Noyes predicts. "We still don't have enough listing to met demand. Inventory is so low, when the faucet opens up it's going to be robust."

As for home sellers, "they should wipe down commonly touched surfaces after a buyer leaves," Noyes said in a news release. "This includes doorknobs, countertops, switches, etc. Buying a home now is not out of the question. Be vigilant, however. Maintain social distancing and practice proper hand hygiene."

Here are other Board of Realtors recommendations for home buying in the coronavirus environment:

  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage. You want to know how much home you can afford and put yourself in a better position to negotiate. So talk to a mortgage lender.
  • Make contact with a local Realtor so they can get to know your needs and wants in a home. This will limit the number of homes you see, saving you time and limiting your possible exposure. The home buying process is complex enough. A good broker will guide you through the process.
  • Find a Realtor who is familiar with tech and knows how to use it. Using a smartphone to prepare a video tour should be something your broker can do. Most contracts and forms can be signed using a digital signature from across town or across an ocean.
  • You might drive up to a home, wait in your car while your real estate agent goes into the house to stream video to you via Facebook Messenger or FaceTime.
  • It is not wise to let a prospective buyer in the home unsupervised. Doing so should be a security concern for the homeowner.
  • If you find a home you can’t visit at this time, but don’t want to miss out on it, the N.C. Offer to Purchase allows for that. North Carolina allows for a due diligence period. Usually with a nominal nonrefundable fee, you can enter into a contract to purchase a home. This allows you to take the home off the market, view the home later, do your inspections, finish your loan qualifications, negotiate any repairs and have them done before closing.