Home Showing Tips for Sellers in the Midst of Coronavirus Outbreak
Toronto and the rest of the world may be grappling with the economic fallouts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, but there is no reason why real estate market activities should come to a halt. If you’re in the middle of a house selling process, or planning to sell in the next few months, here are some tips for safeguarding your home, family, and others (including potential buyers) from the virus during home showings.
Clean Surfaces using Disinfectants Often
Coronavirus, just like most other respiratory illnesses, can be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. The viruses in these droplets can remain alive for hours to days on various surfaces. You should clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in common areas such as tables, desks, chairs, door knobs and handles, light switches, remotes, toilets, and sinks. If hard surfaces are dirty, clean using a detergent or soap and water before disinfecting. Soap (any type) is the most powerful agent for killing viruses and bacteria that live on household surfaces.
If you’re using bleach, check the expiry date prior to using, and be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper application and ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
You can create a household bleach solution by mixing:
- 5 tablespoons (one-third of a cup) of bleach + 1 gallon of water, OR
- 4 teaspoons of bleach + 1 quart of water
For soft and porous surfaces such as carpets and rugs, remove visible contamination (if there is any) and put the items in washing machine or bring them to a laundromat, as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Use warm or hot water if possible.
Visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s website for more information on home cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
Have Hand Sanitizers and Hand Washing Stations Available During Home Showings
We can pick up droplets that contain viruses, which can then enter our bodies if we use our hands to touch the face, eyes, or nose. Washing hands with soap and water is the most effective way of killing germs on your hands. The molecules in soap are “amphiphiles”, where one end of the molecule is attracted to water and repelled by fats and proteins, and the other side is attracted to fats and is repelled by water. Coronaviruses’ genetic information is encoded by RNA, which is surrounded by a coat of fat and protein that the soap molecules can pull apart and annihilate. The surfactants in soap lift soil and microbes from skin, and people tend to scrub hands more thoroughly when using soap, which further removes germs.
When potential buyers or guests come in to view your home, let them know that they can use your sink to wash their hands. You might also want to put out hand sanitizers at certain locations around the house, such as near the main home entrance, and upon entering or exiting the bedrooms and/or bathrooms. If hand sanitizers are all sold out, you can make your own homemade hand sanitizer. The key ingredients are rubbing alcohol or ethanol, and aloe vera gel or vegetable glycerine. You can get these at most drug stores and supermarkets.
Recipe for making homemade hand sanitizer:
- Pour two-third cup (160 mL) of 99% rubbing alcohol or ethanol into a large bowl.
- Add one-third cup (80 mL) of pure aloe vera gel or vegetable glycerine.
- Mix well and VOILA! You have your own homemade hand sanitizer.
Provide Masks for Guests / Potential Buyers (if requested)
If you and/or your guests want to take extra precaution, have N95 masks available during home showings. And no, surgical face masks (those masks that surgeons use, and look like they’re made out of thin paper) do not protect against coronavirus. N95 mask is a type of respirator mask that removes particles from the air that are breathed through it. It is able to filter out at least 95% of large and very small airborne particles (approximately 0.3 micron), including viruses and bacteria. When wearing a N95 mask, make sure that it is adequately sealed to the face to prevent leakage around the edge of the mask during inhalation and exhalation. In most cases, wearing a N95 mask at home is not necessary, unless someone living in the home (or you suspect that a guest) might have the virus.
Click here for World Health Organization (WHO)’s guideline on when and how to use masks.
Have Your Real Estate Agent Assure Potential Buyers that Your Home is Clean and Regularly Being Disinfected
After you undergo regular cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces at home (both hard and soft / porous surfaces), and have hand washing stations and/or hand sanitizers available, let your Real Estate Agent know so they can assure guests and potential buyers coming in to your home that it is safe and clean.
Hold One-on-One Showings instead of Open Houses
In alignment with the guideline to avoid large crowd gatherings as much as possible, you might want to opt for holding one-on-one showings instead of open houses. Open houses may be a convenient way to arrange your schedule, by freeing up a half or whole day to meet with potential buyers. However, to avoid a large gathering of people at once (and to avoid increasing the risk of virus transmission), you might want to stick with individual showings for the time being. One-on-one home showings can also be more beneficial for both the buyer and seller, as potential buyers may feel more free to ask questions, do inspection, and have a more personal interaction with you (the seller). This can increase the chance of the potential buyer submitting a bid.
Leverage Technology: Virtual Home Tour & Live Home Showing
Technology exists today to showcase your home virtually, and to interact with potential buyers live or in real time through the web. The opportunities enabled by technology include virtual property showcases, virtual staging, and live meetings (akin to a video conference call).
Virtual property showcases can be designed using Virtual Reality (VR) technology, where a user can put on a VR headset and experience an immersive, three-dimensional walkthrough of the property. A simpler alternative is to create a 360-degree that captures the interiors of your home using a panoramic camera. For 360-degree videos, no programming or sophisticated technical rendering is needed. Creating an interactive virtual home tour is more complicated and requires the technical expertise and skill of a VR programmer or designer.
Virtual staging is when you use VR technology to showcase an empty property, but staged with furniture and appliances in a virtual reality setting. It’s a great way to market properties without moving furniture in and out (if the current homeowner or tenant is not already living there). You can also arrange, add, and remove furniture easily as it’s all done virtually. Companies such as roOomy offers virtual staging services for the real estate industry.
If you’re looking for a simpler solution, you can simply use your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone to set up a live conference meeting with potential buyers. In these video conference meetings, you can walk around (with the mobile device and built-in webcam) and show potential buyer(s) the different rooms and areas in your home, and answer any questions that may have. Alternatively, you can record the interiors of your home using a regular or video camera ahead of time, and send them the file or upload it to the cloud for them to access. There are also different software programs available for creating real estate virtual tours. This includes iStaging, Tour Wizard, My360, RoundMe, and EyeSpy360.