Editor’s note: All of HomeLight’s coronavirus information for buyers, sellers, and agents is available on our COVID-19 hub.
Before the coronavirus-related shutdown, pending real estate sales increased by 2.4% in February, and there were 5.27 million home sales in March 2020. But on March 22, California was the first state to impose a stay-at-home order, and many states, counties, and cities have since followed suit, hoping to “flatten the curve.”
Although 780,000 Americans have been infected with the coronavirus as of late April (and more cases are confirmed every day), people still have to move for one reason or another. While moving into a house during the coronavirus pandemic may not be at the top of everyone’s to-do list, some people were already in the process of buying a new home, while others might have to move for a job opportunity in the near future.
If you find yourself in this unique situation, you already know that just the idea of moving during a pandemic can be stressful — that is, if closing still goes as planned. You can alleviate some of that stress by being mindful of the following tips.
Tip #1: Expect delays
The timeline for closing on a house can range anywhere from 20 days to 60 days, depending on a number of factors. However, the average time is about 47 days. Unfortunately, many situations can cause a delay in closing, especially during a pandemic.
Much of the homebuying process requires face-to-face meetings, but because of social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantines, those things have to be put on hold in many areas. Some of these delays may encompass recording the title at the county courthouse, having the home appraised and inspected, and difficulty securing a mortgage.
When a buyer is ready to submit a purchase agreement, their agent usually includes some contingencies that allow buyers to back out of the deal without penalties if something falls through with the transaction. The most common contingencies include financing contingencies, home inspection contingencies, home appraisal contingencies, and home sale contingencies.
The purchase agreement will also include clauses that state the timeline for closing the deal, when the seller must move out of the house, who pays closing costs, and other transaction details.
“Right now, we’re putting a rider in contracts so that if someone contracts the coronavirus, they can get out of the contract pretty much up to the closing date,” Jane Lee, a top-selling real estate agent in Illinois, explains.
This new addendum is called a coronavirus addendum. This document is signed by everyone present at a showing; in most markets, its main purpose is to provide some wiggle room in terms of the closing timeline to accommodate coronavirus-related delays. Sometimes a coronavirus addendum will also include financing contingencies, and sometimes an addendum signifies that, to the best of everybody’s knowledge, no one has contracted or been in contact with someone who has coronavirus.
Tip #2: Know the law
Many states have declared moving companies and real estate are essential services and can conduct business providing they adhere to local, state and federal safety and health precautions. These precautions mean people should wear face masks and gloves; social distancing should be practiced, as well as proper handwashing.
If you have any questions, turn to your real estate agent for guidance. They’ll explain the local ordinances and safety guidelines. You can also do some research on your own by using Google and typing in “coronavirus real estate guidelines for (your state).”
After submitting your query, your results should include your local Realtor association’s website, the National Realtor Association (NAR) website, and news articles. We suggest using the “Tools” feature and choosing “Past Week” or “Past Month” (see image).
Remember, the guidelines are put in place to keep everyone healthy and prevent the spread of the virus and should not be disregarded.
Tip #3: Timing matters
Unless your transaction has already settled and your move-in date has been planned, you should consider whether or not you absolutely have to move right now.
If you don’t have to move, don’t! Keep yourself, your family, and everyone you would have to deal with safe by postponing your move at least until the stay-at-home order has been lifted.
Tip #4: Look at your options
If you have to move, consider your options. Like real estate, moving companies and services have been deemed essential services, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them. Non-disabled individuals who don’t need help lifting things may want to consider renting a moving pod to reduce contact with others.
Should you need to use a moving company to help with the move, you’ll want to do your homework here, too. “Some moving companies are conducting business, and others are not. To make my clients’ lives a little easier, I have a list of moving companies that are operational they can call,” Janice Egan, who works with 77% more single-family homes than the average agent in her area in New York, shares.
When you reach out to moving companies, you will want to inquire about safety precautions to protect their workers and customers. You’ll also want to ask about their policies regarding cancellations, refunds, and schedule changes during the pandemic.
If you or someone in your household are experiencing symptoms or have been infected with the coronavirus, make sure you let the moving company know as soon as possible!
Tip #5: Preparing for the move
It isn’t unusual to recycle boxes from move to move. However, safety should be your top priority during the pandemic — not just for yourself, but also for the movers as well.
It’s important to make your move as clean as possible; therefore, you will want to buy new boxes to reduce the possibility of infection. It is also recommended to use disinfecting wipes to clean any boxes, furniture, and moving equipment (dollies, plastic bins, a rental truck, and so on).
Experts are still trying to figure out how long the virus can survive outside of a host’s body. Still, according to an analysis published in the March 17 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, the virus can survive for:
- Up to 3 hours in the air
- Up to 4 hours on copper
- Up to 24 hours on cardboard
- Up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel
If you’re using a moving company, you can do your part in keeping the movers safe by leaving doors open (including closet doors), so they don’t have to touch them. Leave the lights on for the same reason. You’ll also want to keep plenty of antibacterial soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer on hand for everyone to use.
Tip #6: Have a backup plan
If you can’t move your belongings into your new house (for example, the old owners haven’t moved out yet), you’re going to need a backup plan.
Under normal circumstances, you may have asked your friends or family if you could store items in their garage or basement. But unless you have access to an empty property where you can store your things, you probably don’t want to go this route because the risk of infection is too high — even if safety precautions are being used.
Instead, we recommend reserving a storage unit just in case you aren’t able to move in right away. Most storage facilities have promotions where you can rent a unit for free or at a low price for the first month. If you don’t need the storage unit for more than a month, you can always cancel.
Tip #7: Moving day
Moving into a house during the coronavirus pandemic is tricky, but doable. For homeowners in a high-risk group (the immunocompromised, elderly, or those with underlying medical conditions, to name a few), Egan says, “I suggest either having the house cleaned or, at the very least, wipe everything down.”
If you’re cleaning the house by yourself, we strongly recommend following the CDC’s guidelines to clean and disinfect your home. If you can’t deep-clean your new home yourself, you’ll be glad to know that all but four states consider residential cleaners an essential service, and you can hire a cleaning crew to get the job done.
If you’re still concerned about possible infection, keep your house sealed for at least 72 hours, but even longer is ideal.
Safety is key for moving into a house during the coronavirus pandemic
Many states have issued stay-at-home orders, but moving into a house during the coronavirus pandemic may be unavoidable for some. Some people may have already signed the contracts and closed on the house before everything blew up. If you have to find a house during the stay-at-home order, many aspects of the house-hunting process will be conducted online and through video chats to limit contact as much as possible.
Before you begin moving into your new home, take the time to wipe everything with disinfectant cloths or use a disinfecting spray like Lysol. Go through your new home and deep-clean all surfaces — especially if the home hasn’t been vacant for more than three days.
Again, if you’re hiring movers to help you move, provide them with plenty of antibacterial soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. Try to limit interacting with the movers as much as possible, and if you need to interact with them, always wear a mask and gloves.
We know how excited you must be to move into your new home, but don’t throw caution to the wind. Social distancing, limiting travel, and wearing protective gear may take some getting used to and may be an inconvenience, but they’re also a necessity at the moment. Moving into a house during coronavirus was never going to be ideal, but if you follow these tips, at least you’ll be making it as safe as possible.
Header Image Source: (XArtProduction / Shutterstock)