The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, which currently has Georgia residents under a mandatory shelter-in-place order, includes exemptions for services that are deemed “essential,” including real estate.
As a result, Savannah’s real estate market has made strategic adjustments to ensure compliance with Governor Brian Kemp’s statewide order and with the latest Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization recommendations.
Fortunately, Savannah’s real estate market has not come to a screeching halt. Professionals, families and retirees are currently in the process of moving to coastal Georgia from other parts of the country. In addition, local residents need to buy or sell their homes.
The local real estate industry has pivoted quickly as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and has made necessary adjustments to ensure that essential business is done as safely and efficiently as possible. As a result, new listings are still going online, properties are still going under contract and homes are still selling.
Here are few examples of some recent COVID-19-related changes in Savannah’s real estate market:
ZOOM LISTING APPOINTMENTS: Many listing appointments are taking place via Zoom and other video conference platforms, enabling real estate agents to guide sellers through the requisite steps to list their property. Face-to-face interaction is limited, due to the coronavirus threat, and is not required to list a residential property.
INCREASED SAFETY FOR PROPERTY SHOWINGS: In accordance with Georgia Association of Realtors (GAR) COVID-19 best practices, real estate agents are only engaging in “in-person” activities when absolutely necessary and are utilizing technology to conduct business. GAR recommends following social distancing guidelines and best practices including hand sanitizer, gloves and booties to cover shoes during property showings. Real estate agents are encouraged to scheduled or conduct in-person showings only with buyers who are actively in the market to purchase immediately, unless a current loan approval letter or proof of funds letter has been provided. Open houses are not encouraged at this time.
VIRTUAL PROPERTY TOURS: A growing number of buyers are “touring” properties in real time through Facetime, where the agent or the homeowner leads a live walk-through of the home on his or her smart phone. In addition, pre-recorded video walk-throughs of properties are also growing in popularity. These video files are being posted online, in addition to photos, offering a more in-depth overview.
SOCIAL DISTANCING AT CLOSINGS: Closing attorneys have changed their standard procedures due to COVID-19, incorporating sealed pens, sanitized conference room tables and disposable gloves. Many attorneys are encouraging buyers and sellers to follow social distancing protocol during closings at local law offices and are limiting how many parties may be present at closings. Some law firms are offering an option for sellers to sign paperwork from the comfort of their own vehicles, with witnesses standing outside on the sidewalk in order to minimize face-to-face contact.
Overall, buyers and sellers are extremely receptive to changes inspired by COVID-19. Real estate business is getting done, and people are adapting. Real estate agents are incredibly responsive, adopting best practices like pre-recording virtual tours and scheduling live FaceTime property walk-throughs that will likely continue after the shelter-in-place order is lifted.
Thankfully, Savannah’s community of real estate professionals, from agents to attorneys, are working together to make everything as easy as possible for clients. We are all continuing to adjust to the reality of social distancing and self-quarantine while conducting essential business as safely and professionally as possible.
Staci Donegan is an associate broker at Seabolt Real Estate who provides highly professional, strategic solutions for buyers and sellers throughout the Savannah area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-247-2052.