We’ve been getting questions from clients wondering if it’s even possible to buy or sell a home in this market. The short answer is yes. But it does present some unique challenges, given that much of the process typically happens in homes. So regardless of who visits your home (e.g. real estate agent, interested buyer, appraiser and inspector), whose home you visit or where you are in the process, these considerations can help you close and stay safe.

Find out key information when setting the appointment

Since every home visit starts by scheduling an appointment, use it as an opportunity to ask a variety of questions and even lay some ground rules before anyone ever knocks on your front door. You’ll want to find out if anyone in their household is sick with a fever/cough, has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or is suspected of having it. If the appointment is set for several days later, you may even want to reach out again before they arrive.

The topic of gloves is a good one to cover, too. Will they be wearing gloves? Will you? If you’re selling your home, and want visitors to wear gloves while in your home, let them know. And to further prepare for the possibility that someone may arrive without gloves, be sure to have some near your entry. You could even have a station set up outside with gloves so that visitors can put them on before ringing your doorbell.

Getting an appraisal—even under shelter-in-place orders

Even though shelter-in-place orders are in effect in many areas of the country, the mortgage process can still continue. It might just look different based on where you live. That’s because not every state considers appraisers as being essential, and therefore able to work. And while the Appraisal Institute is working hard to change that, many states do consider this essential business. Clearly the situation will continue to evolve, so you may need to get your lender’s perspective when it comes time to schedule an appraisal.

In the meantime, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has directed both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (they buy a majority of mortgages from lenders after the loan has closed) to ease their standards. Now, an exterior-only appraisal in certain circumstances can be a go-to alternative to the traditional in-home appraisal so that the mortgage market keeps moving.

Getting through closing

Just like with appraisals, different parts of the country are experiencing different restrictions. So in the same vein as appraisals, closings are taking place, though frequently in a much different way. Some closings are still scheduled at the closing agent or escrow company’s office. If your closing is scheduled at an office, follow up with them to learn what protective measures they provide. Some companies create a socially distanced environment by keeping buyers and sellers in different rooms.

Though not all, many states have taken measures to speed closing, like authorizing electronic notarization. Since the closing process isn’t a blanket, one size fits all, you may want to check with your lender to see how their closings are being handled. If you find that your closing won’t be handled electronically, be sure to bring a trusty blue pen as you’re typically required to sign in blue.

Expect delays

One last point to keep in mind is that this situation calls for a big dose of patience. While the process is still moving, it is moving slowly. Key businesses who support the process, like the offices who officially record the property transfer, may be short-staffed themselves. The good news is that lenders do realize that things have slowed and are making adjustments to allow for longer times. Many have already extended their 45 or 60-day rate locks to 90 days.

Your loan officer and real estate agent can be great sources of information during this time. So talk to them about any questions or issues you may have, making sure you understand each stage of the process. And of course, feel free to call us directly with any questions at 1-855-297-3895. Most importantly, maintain your perspective. Protecting your health and welfare is your top priority, and it’s ours, too. We’re here to help you navigate all of the other details.

Our Chief Banking Officer John Pataky shares some helpful words from his home office

Considerations unique to sellers

  • Limit showings to buyers who are prequalified
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize before and after a showing
  • Offer virtual or 3-D tours instead of in-person showings