Buying a condo during Covid-19 requires extra due diligence – tips for doing it right
As we progress through Covid-19, we’ll see sectors, including real estate, regain some strength until the issue is resolved (what will happen then is debatable). Everyone’s personal risk tolerance is different and valid so the right time for you to buy a home is a personal choice. It can be now (this option best suits a vacant property), once restrictions have been relaxed, or once we hear ‘all clear.’
Below are general thoughts as a starting point. It needs to be fleshed out based on your personal circumstances and the property you’re considering.
I posted on how to responsibly sell a property during Covid-19 (link) along with a deeper preamble that I’ll not replicate here in a nod towards brevity. Buying is the simpler side as, although there are still risks, it doesn’t involve other people entering your home. Instead, our responsibility mostly lies on protecting the best interests of the occupants while still gleaning the information you require to make an informed decision. Happily, the precautions recommended by experts (referenced articles are links below) are straightforward and achievable.
Review whether now is the right time to purchase
Covid-19 has permeated nearly every facet of our lives so I suggest you first step back and take a holistic view of your position and goals, even if you were already mid-process when it arrived.
Buying a property should be fun and exciting, not cause for stress, so we’ll take prudent measures and identify contingencies to ensure you’re on the right path.
- Are you comfortable with current market conditions? Are you prepared to hang onto the property for awhile? If you’re thinking of buying and selling in a year, I’d have a hard time thinking that’s a good idea.
- Consider whether the health risks to yourself and others land within your tolerance level. In doing so, you need to look at the full buying lifecycle to confirm you’re comfortable with what’s entailed from purchasing through to moving.
- If you’re adding debt, you should reflect upon the security of your employment and other influences on your ability to assume higher payments.
- Will your downpayment remain intact or will you require it for living expenses?
- Are you pre-approved for a mortgage based on the current situation? Conditions are rapidly changing so, if your pre-approval isn’t recent, connect with your mortgage professional to ensure your financing remains solid.
Prior to booking a viewing
Being able to view a property is one of the benefits of buying resale instead of presale. If the property is occupied, we have to be mindful of entering someone’s home during Covid-19. Before doing so, we’ll thoroughly review all available materials to ensure the property suits your goals as, if we find a red flag, there’s no need for the viewing. This is when you’ll benefit from working with a realtor familiar with your target neighbourhood.
Prior to booking a viewing, we’ll:
- Review the listing, video, floorplan, and other available documents to ensure it suits your needs.
- Drive by and explore the neighbourhood if it’s not familiar to you.
- Ask the seller’s realtor to clarify any questions.
- Review any waiver the seller’s realtor may have to ensure we can adhere to it.
- Review if any of us have any risk factors (including cold or flu-like symptoms, having travelled within the past 14 days, been in contact with someone who has symptoms or has travelled in the past 14 days). If so, we’ll schedule a viewing after a 14 day waiting period to everyone’s benefit. Having to complete a sale while having Covid-19 would not be fun.
During the viewing
Currently, the trickle of new listings are primarily for vacant properties but I imagine more occupied homes will come on market as restrictions are eased. While precautions are necessary even for vacant properties, we’ll redouble our efforts for those that are occupied.
We’ll follow the procedure desired by the occupant and the seller’s realtor and there may be additional actions we employ to err on the side of caution.
How will it look? We’ll:
- Take separate cars to the viewing.
- Sterilize our hands before entering, wear a mask, and take off our shoes.
- Ask the seller’s realtor to open doors, windows, cupboards, closets, and appliances for us.
- Be prepared to sign a waiver.
- Allow extra time for viewings and be patient with sellers and their realtors as we’re figuring this out together.
- Understand that tenants have the right to refuse entry to their homes at this time.
Making an offer and closing
As with everything, it may not be immediately apparent that we need to tweak practices. However, with a more investigative eye, we can see there are circumstances due to Covid-19, although unlikely, that we should account for in your offer.
It’s best to consult a lawyer expert in real estate during the offer process to help ensure you’re protected.
Process and offer changes driven by Covid-19 may include:
- A longer due diligence (subject removal) period. This can even be in excess of 14 days to account for a quarantine period.
- If a Seller requires an offer prior to viewing the property, it should have a subject to viewing clause.
- Have to select closing dates for when it’s anticipated we can access movers and other services.
- As soon as you have a firm offer and thereby commit to purchasing the property, you should deal with your lawyer for the closing paperwork as soon as possible.
- Have contingencies for things such as… what happens if the occupant or you are being quarantined at time of completion?
- Tenanted properties add a level of complexity as evictions are currently prohibited (link).
These precautions feel familiar to me as between being an environmental consultant, as aquarist at the Vancouver Aquarium, and a first-aid attendant, I have around 20 years of hand washing and vector management. I’ve been in rowboats on lagoons of raw sewage, deep in the bowels of sewage treatment plants (joke intended), scuba diving among sharks, and stemmed the flow of blood from wounds (unrelated to the sharks). Picture protective suits, face shields, hardhats, gloves, and copious hand washing. I never imagined this experience would help me show homes.
Being proficient in hand washing does not make me a medical professional. To arrive at the above practices, I’ve considered the following resources.
I recommend you read advice directly from experts you deem reliable to assist in your decision.
Links to Covid-19 resources:
• Provincial Health Office – Covid-19 Orders, Notices and Guidance
(At time of writing, there was nothing specific to selling real estate, however, we can apply the same suggestions as for other industries. For instance, no more than 4 people in an elevator at a time as for construction sites.)
I hope this was clear and useful. This is a fluid situation and I’ll continue to watch developments.
As always, please reach out if you’d like to review your situation with someone who takes his responsibility to clients seriously.
604.314.7138 [email protected]