Should I Sell My Home During a Pandemic?
Factors to Consider Before Putting Your House on the Market
Choosing to list your home is always a big decision, but doing so during a pandemic might be even more difficult. In such a scenario, multiple health and safety concerns—and possible economic distress—may be layered on top of the typical market conditions you’ll consider before making the final decision to sell.
If you’re on the fence about selling your home during a pandemic, here’s what to keep in mind.
Selling Your Home During a Pandemic
It is possible to sell your home during a pandemic, and many homeowners are doing just that. Though housing inventory may be low nationwide, data shows that Americans will definitely still buy homes despite a health crisis that may be going on around them. In June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, applications for home mortgages were up 54% from that same month in 2019. They were also 20% higher than in May 2020.
Still, that pace of activity doesn’t mean everything is going to always be business as usual. The process of buying and selling a home will be somewhat altered by the current conditions. Appraisals may be deferred or completed using drive-by or digital inspections, many closings may happen in parking lots or curbside, and there may be strict cleaning protocols you’ll want to follow when showing the home.
You should also expect to provide a virtual tour and other digital assets. Requests for these jumped when the coronavirus pandemic began to spread in the U.S. in early March 2020.
Pros and Cons of Selling in a Pandemic
Real estate transactions might look different during a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean selling your home is out of the question. Despite everything, there are definite advantages to selling your home in the midst of a pandemic. For one, home prices could still be rising. For example, even while the economy was in a recession, average home prices still rose 5.5% year over year in April 2020.
“For sellers, prices are holding up just now and have been rising for the past few years,” Kerron Stokes, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Leaders in Colorado, told The Balance via email. “So it is a good time to sell, even if you may have to wait a little longer to find a buyer.”
There are also the market’s mortgage rates to consider, which could mean a more affordable payment on your new home or, if you prefer, a bigger budget to work with when buying. As of Aug. 6, 2020, rates were at historic lows, averaging 2.88% for a 30-year mortgage and 2.44% for a 15-year mortgage, according to Freddie Mac.
On the downside, there are still potential health risks to worry about. Showings, appraisals, inspections, and appointments with title companies can all increase your exposure to contracting the virus.
At the very least, selling your home during a pandemic will mean stricter cleaning protocols before and after showings.
The process also might take longer. According to realtor.com, the average home was taking 13 days longer to sell as of the week ending June 20 compared with that same time in 2019. By early August, the average number of days on the market was declining. Jen Horner, an agent with RE/MAX Masters in Utah, told The Balance via email. There are other parts of the transaction that might be delayed, too.
“New procedures and temporary closings have caused delays, along with seller and buyer anxiety,” Horner said. “There are many moving parts in a real estate transaction and the temporary closings and new bank procedures have caused delays and, in some cases, required workarounds.”
Pros & Cons of Selling During a Pandemic
Mortgage rates could be low for your next home purchase
Home prices may still be rising
You may likely encounter only serious buyers
There may be potential health risks to consider
You may need to be more diligent about cleaning and sanitizing your property
It might take longer to sell
You may not be able to host an open house or use other in-person marketing tactics
Should You Just Wait?
Waiting can have its benefits, too. Primarily, it could mean reduced health risks and a safer environment for your family to sell in. This choice could also mean traditional, in-person marketing, like open houses, can happen again as shelter-at-home and gathering restrictions ease, possibly making it easier to sell your home.
Delaying your sale may also give you more time to improve your property, potentially raising its value (and your sales profits) in the process.
The biggest drawback to waiting is that you might miss out on the market’s strong home prices. Susan Abrams, an agent with Warburg Realty, told The Balance by email that it may actually be best to sell at the start of an economic downturn or unprecedented event.
“Historically during a downturn, it takes several years for prices to reach their lowest levels,” Abrams said. “Therefore, pricing your home realistically and selling at the beginning of an economic downturn or an unprecedented historical event, such as a pandemic, is recommended. A second wave of the virus could cause further damage to real estate prices, and, therefore, waiting to sell could result in a seller achieving a lower sales price.”
And remember: Mortgage rates could rise from their historically low levels. This may discourage buyers from getting into the market later on.
Other Factors to Consider Before Selling
Before selling your house during a pandemic, you should take into account a few factors—primarily your health and that of your loved ones. If you or someone in your household is in a high-risk category for contracting the coronavirus, a sale that involves contact with visitors or outside service providers may not be advisable. Be sure to speak with your doctor, if this is the case.
You should also consider the current state of your income and employment, at least if you plan to buy a new home. If your pay has been cut or you’ve lost your job due to the pandemic, it could significantly delay or hinder your ability to get a mortgage as lenders add income verification criteria and tighten credit standards across a variety of loan products amid the economic uncertainty.
Getting Ready to Sell Your Home
With in-person showings more scarce during a pandemic, homeowners will want their listing’s photos, videos, and other online assets to be as strong as possible.
“To obtain the most lucrative sale right now, sellers should streamline their homes of clutter so that photography and virtual tours can be maximized,” Abrams said. “It is more important than ever to declutter.”
Consulting a local real estate agent is also a smart idea. The National Association of Realtors has guidelines in place to protect both agents and the buyers and sellers they work with.
The Bottom Line
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to selling a house during a pandemic. Consider your health, your priorities as a seller, your financial outlook during uncertain economic times, and the overall risks and rewards of going ahead with listing your home. If you’re still unsure of what path to take, consult a real estate agent and your physician for guidance.
Mortgage Bankers Association. "June New Home Purchase Mortgage Applications Increased 54.1 Percent." Accessed Aug. 6. 2020.
Federal Housing and Finance Agency. "U.S. House Price Index - April 2020." Accessed July 8, 2020.
Freddie Mac. "Primary Mortgage Market Survey." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
Realtor.com. "Weekly Housing Trends View — Data Week June 20, 2020." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
National Association of Realtors. "Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTORS." Accessed July 8, 2020.