Thanks to COVID-19, the new reality is that many open houses and home tours are being conducted virtually. For prospective home buyers, this new territory brings an added element to prepare for in the home buying process. Some of the questions that should be asked in a virtual home tour parallel those of in-person tours, but others are unique to today’s virtual world.
Could you zoom in?
- Sometimes it can be difficult to get a true glimpse at what you want to see in a room. Asking the agent to zoom in on specific features is commonplace in virtual home tours, and they understand this is part of the viewer experience. Don’t hesitate to ask multiple times. Getting a better look at everything you want to see will help you feel like you’ve gotten the most out of your virtual tour.
How many square feet are in this room?
- Virtual tours can slightly distort space, making it tough to gauge the size. The room-to-room square footage is information the agent is sure to have handy. Since you can’t be there in person, it will help you piece together the virtual visuals with the sense of physical space that we’re all accustomed to feeling in the places we live.
What color is that?
- In the smartphone era, and computer era at large, we have come to understand that digital representations of color are not always true to the eye. Ask the agent to confirm specific colors so you can plan accordingly. Have a color swatch on hand or look the colors up online as you go through the tour.
When were the appliances last updated?
- The importance of this question rings true in past, present, and future. Knowing the state of the home’s appliances, and the likelihood and timing of when they will need replacement, is vital information for both assessing the move-in readiness of the home and understanding what costs might lie ahead.
Has the seller provided an inspection?
- This is another example of a critical question, whether your home tour is virtual or physical. If the seller has already done an inspection, ask the agent to lead you to any areas of concern based on the inspector’s findings. If there is anything that has not yet been addressed by the seller, have your agent ask what their plan is for making the necessary repairs/updates.
When is the offer review date?
- Understanding the seller’s timeline for reviewing and accepting offers will help guide your decision-making process and allow you to strategize based on the timeline.
Whether your home tour is physical or virtual, getting the information you need to make an informed decision remains paramount. Although there is no substitute for physically being in the home you are looking to buy, keeping these questions in mind will position you well as you progress through the home buying journey.
This week on “Mondays with Matthew”: Now that things have settled down somewhat following the initial impact of COVID-19, Matthew dives into the topic of mortgage rates. Will they go below 3%? Matthew discusses this and the factors that have formed his updated 2020 and 2021 mortgage rate forecast.
In this week’s episode of Mondays with Matthew, Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner kicks off a series of episodes in which he answers questions from his followers. The first deals with how COVID-19 will impact buyer behaviors, especially in more urban markets.
Staying organized while uprooting your life and moving from one home to another can feel impossible. Not only are you trying to get the best financial return on your investment, but you might also be working on a tight deadline. There’s also the pressure to keep your home clean and organized at all times for prospective buyers. However, one thing you can be sure of when selling your home is that there will be strangers entering your space, so it’s important for you and your agent to take certain safety precautions. Like so many things in life, they can feel more manageable once written down, so we made this handy checklist.
- Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
- Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family heirlooms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting misplaced or stolen.
- Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.
- Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. If someone is looking to get back into your home following a showing or an open house, they will look for weak locks or they might unlock a window or door.
- Consider extra security measures such as an alarm system or other monitoring tools like cameras.
- Don’t show your own home! If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. You want to have an agent present to show your home at all times. Agents should have screening precautions to keep you and them safe from potential danger.
Talk to your agent about the following safety precautions:
- Do a walk-through with your agent to make sure you have identified everything that needs to be removed or secured, such as medications, belongings, and photos.
- Go over your agent’s screening process:
- Phone screening prior to showing the home
- Process for identifying and qualifying buyers for showings
- Their personal safety during showings and open houses
- Lockboxes to secure your keys for showings should be up to date. Electronic lockboxes actually track who has had access to your home.
- Work with your agent on an open house checklist:
- Do they collect contact information of everyone entering the home?
- Do they work with a partner to ensure their personal safety?
- Go through your home’s entrances and exits and share important household information so your agent can advise how to secure your property while it’s on the market.
Job growth is critical to the health of the housing market, so on this week’s episode of “Mondays with Matthew,” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner analyzes the effect of COVID-19 on employment and what we can expect for the duration of the year.
Over the past few weeks, as the effects of COVID-19 have spread to everywhere Windermere has offices, we have seen an outpouring of support from our agents and offices in their local communities, embodying what it means to be All In, For You.
The Bellevue, WA-based Windermere Real Estate East Inc. offices have been all in for their community in recent weeks by organizing “Feed the Front Lines.” This effort has raised upwards of $9,000, with many members volunteering their time to help pick-up and deliver much-needed meals to the medical professionals at a local hospital. So far, they have scheduled six shifts of lunch and dinner deliveries, totaling 415 meals. They have reached out further into the community, collecting donations for local small businesses that have been forced to close.
Windermere agent Chris Gaines—based in Boise, Idaho with the Windermere Powerhouse Group—was inspired to deliver food and other necessities to the elderly in his neighborhood. Chris and his family spent the day visiting local grocery stores and gathering supplies to make care packages. After divvying everything up, they safely delivered the care packages to neighbors, who were sincerely grateful. “It was clear by the excitement of some of them that we were the first to have visited since all of this began,” said Chris of his neighbors.
In other cities where Windermere operates, such as Palm Springs, agents are volunteering to buy and deliver groceries for the local elderly population who are currently unable to leave home due to the threat of COVID-19.
On Maui, the local Windermere office is routing Windermere Foundation donations to a local food bank. On top of that, they will provide that same food bank with a donation from each closed home sale over the next 60 days. Agents on Maui are also volunteering to prepare grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals for kids at the Kihei Charter School.
In Nevada, the mother-son team of Reba St. Clair & Devone Donley are providing delivery services free of charge to their neighbors throughout the Lake Las Vegas area. They are picking up prescriptions and performing food deliveries, making themselves a dependable resource to their community.
The Seattle-area offices that make up Windermere Wall Street recently donated $2,000 to Refugee Artisan Initiative (RAI) to aid in the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical masks. RAI’s mission is to transform the lives of refugee and immigrant women by providing sustainable work in sewing and handcrafting goods.
As our agents and offices have proven time and time again, together we can make a difference. We will continue to share these uplifting stories of support for our communities through the COVID-19 pandemic.
All In, For Community. All In, For You.
What does it mean to be “All in”?
At Windermere, it means our agents love what they do, acting beyond themselves, and being there when it counts. During these uncertain times, we want you to know that our agents are more focused than ever on taking care of their clients and helping them move their dreams forward.
This year’s Earth Day will certainly look different than in years past. With no large gatherings, marches or events, most of us find ourselves celebrating from home. Fortunately, when it comes to reducing your footprint or assessing the eco-friendliness of your lifestyle, your living space is a great place to start. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day from home.
Outside the house:
The combination of spring weather and current shelter and stay-at-home orders have created a gardening renaissance. With April being gardening month and the amount of time we find ourselves spending at home these days, now is the perfect time to start (or get back to) your garden.
- Kick up your composting efforts or build out a composting area in your garden.
- Get started with a nature DIY project, like a garden shed or planter boxes.
- Make your garden your own escape. This is more important now than ever, for your health and the health of your household.
Around the house:
- Perform a plastic audit of your home.
- Take count of the plastic items used in your kitchen and bathroom and rethink their necessity.
- Get in the habit of turning lights off when you leave a room.
- Little by little this can add up and is an easy green practice for Earth Day and beyond.
- Turn off the faucet when you aren’t using it.
- Unplug your appliances after using them.
- They still use energy even when they aren’t turned on.
- Turning off phones, tablets, and computers at night will save energy.
- Use cold water to wash your laundry.
- This sidesteps any of the energy your machine uses to heat water—which is a large percentage of their energy output.
- Add plants.
- This has a myriad of benefits for both your health and your wallet.
- Plants are known to reduce stress and regulate temperature, which saves on the energy required to heat and cool your house.
By doing these little things around the house you can maximize your Earth Day impact and get an idea of how you can incorporate them into your lifestyle as time goes on.
Earth Day carries educational significance as well. Learning more about our planet and how we can do our part in its health moving forward is an important aspect of the holiday.
- Though you may not be able to attend a lecture in person, there are a bevy of virtual options to participate in Earth Day learning and planetary education. Discuss with your family what actions you can take to make a difference in your household.
- Add a nature documentary or series to your watchlist.
- Travel from home with virtual tours of national parks and natural wonders.
- Try some new cookbooks. For Earth Day-centric food ideas, look for cookbooks with plant-based recipes.
Homeowners everywhere have established an evolved relationship with their homes in recent weeks. Spending time thinking about the footprint of your household and how it allows you to make eco-friendly choices is a worthy investment for Earth Day and beyond.
Most of us tend to think of air pollution as something that occurs outdoors where car exhaust and factory fumes proliferate, but there’s such a thing as indoor air pollution, too. Since the 1950s, the number of synthetic chemicals used in home products have increased drastically, while homes have become much tighter and better insulated. As a result, the EPA estimates that Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.
Luckily, there are many ways to reduce indoor air pollution. We all know that buying organic and natural home materials and cleaning supplies can improve the air quality in our homes, but there are several other measures you can take as well.
How pollutants get into our homes
Potentially toxic ingredients are found in many materials throughout the home, and they leach out into the air as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. If you open a can of paint, you can probably smell those VOCs. Mold is a VOC that can build up in the dampest parts of your home like the laundry room or crawl spaces. Another example is the “new car smell” that seems to dissipate after a while, but VOCs can “off-gas” for a long time, even after a noticeable smell is gone.
Many materials used to build a home contain chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, ethanol, and acetone, and even lead. VOCs can also be in the form of pet dander or dust. Fortunately, VOCs from building materials dissipate over time. For that reason, the highest levels of VOCs are usually found in new homes or remodels. If you are concerned about VOCs, there are several products you can buy that are either low- or no-VOC. You can also have your home professionally tested.
How to reduce VOCs in your home
Choose your building materials wisely
- – Use tile or solid wood for flooring—hardwood, bamboo, or cork
- – Choose solid wood or outdoor-quality plywood that uses a less toxic form of formaldehyde.
- – Choose low-VOC or VOC-free paints and finishes
Purify the air
- – Make sure your rooms have adequate ventilation, air out newly renovated areas for at least a week
- – Clean ductwork and furnace filters regularly
- – Install air cleaners if needed
- – Use only environmentally responsible cleaning chemicals
- – Plants are a natural solution to help clean the air
- – Air out freshly dry-cleaned clothes or choose a “green” cleaner
Pick the right carpet
- – Choose “Green Label” carpeting or a natural fiber such as wool or sisal
- – Use nails instead of glue to secure carpet
- – Install carpet LAST after completing painting projects or wall coverings
- – Air out newly carpeted areas before using
- – Use a HEPA vacuum or a central vac system that vents outdoors
- – Clean up water leaks fast
- – Keep humidity below 60 percent, using dehumidifiers if necessary
- – Refrain from carpeting rooms that stay damp
- – Insulate pipes, crawl spaces, and windows to eliminate condensation
- – Use one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water to kill mold in its early stages
If you would like to learn more about VOCs and indoor air quality, please visit http://www.epa.gov/iaq/.
Every Monday Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner provides an update regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and housing market. This week he discusses what it really means for the economy and housing to be in a COVID-19 induced recession (hint: it’s not all bad news).