Listings, appraisals, showings and sales during COVID-19

By Ryan C. Benton

It was just a few weeks ago that you were looking at buying a house or, perhaps, selling your home and putting your hard-won equity to work. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck and left you with more questions than answers regarding what to do.

Should you stay in the market? Should you wait? Can you even buy or sell a property under the current stay-at-home conditions? These are just a few of the questions that many people are being forced to ask in recent weeks as we navigate these unprecedented times.

While the pandemic has certainly impacted the housing market, its effect hasn’t been as great as many feared. Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s guidelines, the real-estate industry and the financial institutions that support it are considered essential services. According to the National Association of Realtors Economic Flash Survey released April 23, 33% of their members have had no delays in closing due to the outbreak.

Appraisals and inspections

Appraisals and inspections are a necessary part of the homebuying process. Most inspectors are using “best practices” by wearing gloves and masks. As an added measure, many are using disinfectants in any area they are required to touch. I have even heard of inspectors touring the houses alone while the buyers and agent wait outside.

For appraisals, the Federal Housing Finance Agency reported March 23 that it is allowing alternative appraisals to be used in place of full appraisals through May 17. This allows home sales to be conducted without exposing people to undue risks.

Selling a home during the COVID-19 pandemic

The federal guidelines and local mandates that have impacted the process of buying a home also apply fully to the selling of one. This means that a little extra work — such as providing virtual tours and extra videos or photographs — may be necessary on your and your listing agent’s part.

However, the extra work will certainly be more than worth the effort. Recent data from NAR suggests 26% of buyers are buying a home virtually without physically entering the property.

Open houses with large groups of people are mostly canceled for now, but many buyers still want to view a home in person before making an offer.

Sellers, however, may worry about having strangers in their homes. So, when a face-to-face showing is necessary, agents are taking some extra steps to protect homeowners and only allowing them on a case-by-case basis with extra safety precautions.

Before a home showing, sellers should clean and disinfect high-touch areas, like countertops and doorknobs. Make sure to leave lights on and doors and closets open to limit what visitors need to touch. And, put a sign on the front door requesting buyers viewing the home to take off their shoes before entering.

Looking to the future

Generally speaking, it was a sellers’ market before COVID-19 made an appearance here in coastal Virginia. And with many deciding to wait to put their homes up for sale, this trend has only increased. The number of buyers, across most markets, has held fairly steady or only slightly declined while new listings have dropped an average of 55% nationwide, according to NAR.

Locally, looking at year-over-year stats as supplied by REIN, Hampton Roads’ multiple listing service, pending sales in March 2019 were 2,552 and, in March 2020, went up by 21.55% to 3,202 pending sales. Additionally, settled sales in March 2019 were 2,312 and, in March 2020, were up by 14.75% to 2,653 settled sales.

With many corporate and military transfers being delayed this spring, there will likely be strong pent-up demand when things return to normal.

It’s no longer business as usual, but business moving forward. So, if you need to buy or sell a home this spring, contacting a qualified Realtor is the first step for maximizing the sales potential of your home.

Ryan C. Benton is a Realtor with Rose & Womble Realty in Chesapeake and a member of the Hampton Roads Realtors Association. Realtors are real estate agents who adhere to a strict code of ethics and work to protect and preserve private property rights. For more on HRRA, go to Contact Benton at 757-544-0383 or or visit