Together, we are facing unprecedented times as the global COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic changes the way we interact, the way we do business and our daily lives. Just like many of you, this has impacted the way our members conduct real estate transactions. In light of Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order, our members are conducting their business virtually where and when they can to serve clients. The National Association of REALTORS® has put together resources to help property owners navigate through the COVID-19 crisis – nar.realtor/coronavirus-resources-for-property-owners.
Since you may not be able to take advantage of a REALTORS®’s full services right now, there are things you can do to NOW (while you’re at home) get ready to buy or sell when the Executive Order is lifted. The Battle Creek Area Association of REALTORS® (BCAAR) created a list of five things you can do right now to prepare for your home buying or selling adventure.
- Contact a REALTOR® and familiarize yourself with the home buying process. Contact a REALTOR®. They have been through the home buying process numerous times and can help guide you through the process from A-Z. Don’t know a REALTOR®? Ask a close friend or relative who they recommend. A REALTOR® can help answer your questions. How do you prepare? How long does it take? Are you financially fit? Several Battle Creek organizations recently put together a First-Time Home Buyers Guide that you can use to guide you through the steps to home ownership. Visit bcaar.com and click on the “Community” tab and download the guide.
- Make a list of wants and needs for your perfect home. Keep in mind that you may not get everything you want, but your REALTOR® will do their best to meet your needs. Some items on your list should be: location, function, lifestyle, resale, future needs, size, maintenance, budget and more.
- Grow your financial muscles. Create a budget and stick to it! Build your credit score. Request your free credit report through annualcreditreport.com and see what balances you need to pay off. Dispute items on your report that are inaccurate. Buying a house is one of the largest and most important, long-term investments you’ll ever make. Examine your budget closely. Figure out where you can trim. Identify areas where your budget will increase with the purchase of a home (utilities, insurance, maintenance).
- Get pre-approved with your favorite lender. Many REALTORS® will ask you for a pre-approval letter before you begin your search. Not only will a pre-approval help you identify how much you can afford, but it will also help you to learn about loan programs that can help you lower your costs (from no or low down payment assistance to first time home buyer loans to programs that allow lower credit scores). We have many local lenders in Calhoun County ready and willing to help you get started. Visit our member directory at bcaar.com to find your favorite bank and mortgage lender.
- Bookmark the website of your favorite REALTOR® or broker to search for homes. Or, you can visit bcaar.com (under buyers/sellers). Although you might not be able to see a house in-person, you can still continue to keep an eye out for that perfect home. Let your REALTOR® know you’re interested and perhaps set-up a virtual tour. You can still make an offer contingent upon an in-person viewing and home inspection.
- Contact a REALTOR® to guide you through the selling process. Do you see a theme here (see step one for home buyers)? Get a jump start on selling your house by working with a REALTOR®. You can schedule a video call with them so they can see your house, talk you the steps necessary to get started and answer your questions. We have tools available to create video tours, electronically sign documents and more – all available without leaving your house. It’s still a seller’s market. Our REALTORS® have plenty of buyers still looking, which could result in several offers for your home.
- Spruce up that outside space! Boost the curb appeal of your house.Roll up your sleeves, grab some gloves and spruce up the landscaping around your house. Get some fresh air and exercise while trimming bushes, picking up leaves, filling in those holes your dog made in the fall, planting grass seed, pulling weeds that have started to sprout over the last few weeks and more. With a little work, you can make a great first impression on potential buyers.
- Clean, Clean, Clean the inside. You’ve been washing your hands frequently but how about your house? What better time than when you’re safe at home to work on those home cleaning projects you’ve been putting off. Potential buyers like to look at the base board, walls, floors, bathrooms, basements, closet spaces and more. Wipe off those cobwebs and make your house shine. A clean home interior gives a good first impression.
- De-Clutter and Donate. Re-arrange and organize. Less is more. That’s your mantra when selling. Keep it simple. You know those clothes that are in the very back of your closet or those leftover parts/tools that are in your garage after all this time? Maybe it’s time to part ways. Sometimes it’s hard for sellers to picture how they could live in your house when they’re distracted by all your stuff. Get a head start on organizing so that when you’re ready to move, you’ll have less to pack. We have so many great nonprofits that could use your gently-used treasures to help people in need. Help buyers envision themselves in your house by removing knickknacks, photos or other personal memorabilia. You might want to consult with a home staging professional to give you advice on what you could do to make your home more attractive.
- Make minor home repairs. Remember that chipped paint in the kitchen that you’ve been meaning to touch-up? Grab that paint can from storage and find all those scuffs and scratches. Fix that squeaky door. Change the burned-out light bulbs. Replace missing screws. Repair the leaky faucet. Those little things add up when you’re trying to put your best foot forward to buyers.
Spring is typically a peak time for house hunting and selling. Although we can’t predict the future, our members stand ready to help buyers and sellers handle their real estate transactions. We still face challenges. Our REALTORS® have buyers and not enough houses on the market. There could be some delays in the closing process. But we also have opportunities. Mortgage rates are near all-time lows. With lower interest rates, home buyers can afford a higher priced home than in previous months.
With almost 300 members, the Battle Creek Area Association of REALTORS® is “the voice for real estate in the Greater Calhoun County region.” You can find a list of our members at www.bcaar.com and clicking on the yellow button, “Find a Member.” Our website also includes resources for buyers/sellers, membership information, community resources and much more! For more information about this article or BCAAR, please visit our website, email us at [email protected] or call 269.962.5193.
And lastly, as our world manages this unimaginable situation, please take a moment to enjoy the company of the immediate family that surround you. Thank those individuals that are working in our hospitals, our first responders (police, fire, EMTs), our grocery store employees, delivery/semi-drivers, utility workers and more. Check on your neighbor. Help the elderly get the supplies they need. Be kind. Now is the time for love, compassion and solidarity. We WILL get through this!