Realtor safety has taken on a whole new meaning since March. Not only have real estate agents had to adapt their business practices to keep physically healthy, but they also had to adopt safety measures to attract nervous prospective buyers while accommodating the concerns of sellers.
For Realtor Safety Month this year, we thought it would be timely to discuss how home buyers and sellers prefer to conduct home sales transactions during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, we want to highlight the ways Stearns has taken the loan process digital to increase safety and convenience for all parties.
Homebuyers and Sellers Value Real Estate Agents
As we can see from recent New1
Home Sales Reports, the desire to own a home remains strong among prospective buyers, and the guidance, expertise, and professionalism which real estate agents provide are more important now than ever.
In a recent survey3
conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the majority of homebuyers (54%) and sellers (62%) said that a real estate agent’s guidance is especially valued during the pandemic. What’s more, about half of buyers (51%) said a real estate agent could help buyers glean more valuable information from online listings than buyers could uncover on their own.
The Evolution Of Safer Real Estate Business Practices
The rapid escalation of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting “shelter-at-home” mandates required most real estate agents to quickly adopt alternative ways to continue buying and selling homes.
Online Documents Signing
The majority of buyers (70%) and sellers (67%) responding to the NAR survey said they are comfortable conducting business on a computer, particularly when it comes to reviewing and signing documents electronically. This response rate is really not surprising when you look at the high proportion of Gen X, Millennials, and the new Gen Z buyers, who use computers daily.
Permanently offering the option of both electronic or in-person document signing to clients will demonstrate that you value their time and understand their preferred method of communication.
Communication Is Key
While buyers and sellers like the convenience of conducting the transaction side of buying and selling a home electronically, they still prefer personal communication. In the same NAR survey, 72% of buyers and 66% of sellers said that talking on the phone made them feel comfortable and connected with their agent. Almost as popular, 70% of buyers and 66% of sellers preferred programs like Skype or Zoom for face-to-face communication.
Hosting Virtual Open House Tours
Virtual open houses have increased in popularity with both buyers and sellers. Even pre-pandemic, sellers found open houses a necessary inconvenience, with the obligation to maintain a pristine home and leave for hours so that buyers could traipse through their home.
In a report released before the coronavirus outbreak, the National Association of Realtors reported4
that 48% of buyers ages 39 to 63 found virtual tours a “very useful” tool in their search. With video call technology being more accessible, buyers can now pre-screen homes virtually, then make an in-person appointment to see only those homes that really interest them. This evolution is a huge win-win-win for agents, sellers, and buyers!
Savvy real estate agents should review which processes and procedures have provided business advantages and consider permanently adopting them to increase efficiency and meet their client needs.
How Stearns Has Made Homebuying Safer
In 2017, Stearns developed a digital mortgage app that enables homebuyers to start their mortgage application on a computer or tablet in 1.47 minutes. The app also provides buyers with the ability to upload their documents and review documents provided by the loan processor.
Earlier this year, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Stearns adjusted our business practices and adopted procedures recommended by the Mortgage Bankers Association. We are now only working with appraisal firms who can conduct business with proper health and safety procedures. We also started working with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and our other mortgage financing investors to sign all paperwork electronically.
Stearns also implemented a Hybrid eClose process for borrowers financing with conventional and FHA home loans. Currently, 90% of the closing documents can be signed electronically. While a few documents are still required to be wet signed in front of a notary per state requirements, we’re taking steps to rapidly evolve to a full eClose process with an online notary service.
Not only does our eClose process substantially reduce the time a client spends at the title office or with a mobile notary, but it also reduces time to close. Working with [company] provides competitive advantages which real estate agents can use to attract prospective homebuyers.
The dedicated Stearns mortgage loan originators have continued to be available via phone, email, and video chat to answer any questions, and to support their borrowers through the entire loan process.
As consumers have become more accustomed to buying and selling online, it was only a matter of time before more of the home buying and selling process would move online. Rather than reduce the need for real estate agents, which was previously perceived to provide an uncertain future for agents, the pandemic has highlighted the vital role of real estate agents through the entire home buying process.
Stay safe out there – and remember, we’re here to help.
1 New Residential Sales
2 Existing-Home Sales
3 Meeting the Needs of Buyers and Sellers During and After the Pandemic
4 “Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends
Sep 01, 2020