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Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, a real estate agent would be lucky to have prospective buyers coming to them for purchases. Consequently, real estate advisors should put in their best efforts, to ensure that such clients who approach them during this difficult time, are served with utmost diligence and that the parties in the transaction stay safe too. Listed below are certain protocols that real estate brokers must follow, while taking their clients for property visits.
How to dress up for site visits
With positive COVID-19 cases in India nearing 15 lakhs (as on July 29, 2020), it is important for the broker and the buyer to dress appropriately, for property inspections. Ensure that you wear masks and gloves at all times and that your clothing covers most parts of your body. The chances of catching the virus is higher, if it were to land on your exposed body parts, as compared to if it landed on your clothes. Medical experts opine that it is highly unlikely that you will be infected, because of what you are wearing. Nevertheless, it is a good practice to wash the clothes, soon after you return.
For the reasons cited above, you and your client should both be dressed suitably, during the visit. Even though the buyers might be conscious of these points, do take it upon yourself to discuss the dress code with them, before you plan the property visit.
Use caution while touching surfaces
A crucial part of the home inspection process, is to check if all outlets work properly. The buyer may, hence, turn on the switches to see if the light and the air-conditioning are working. In the kitchen and the bathroom, they may open the taps or flush the toilet. In case there is furniture, it also only seems natural to touch them, to gauge its quality.
“Touch is the most ‘real’ way to sense the world around us. It is hard to believe something is real, unless we actually touch and feel it. Without the sense of touch, we would feel isolated and helpless,” says Shalini Varma, author of the best-seller, ‘Body Language: Your Success Mantra’.
Touching many surfaces puts you at greater risk of catching viruses. Moreover, the seller may also have to disinfect all the surfaces that you touch, after your visit. As it may not come naturally to us, conscious efforts have to be made, to ensure that the touching of surfaces is kept to a minimum. You can consider using some sort of device, to turn on and off the switches and faucets, if need be. The realtor must have an elaborate chat with the buyer about this.
How to greet clients
A handshake is a natural choice, when it comes to extending a welcome to the client. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, think of another way to greet people. This could be a simple ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ or ‘namaskar’.
If you are driving the buyer around in your personal vehicle, the automobile has to be disinfected, once the visit is over. If the buyer is using his personal vehicle and you are the one taking a lift, the same rule applies.
Check the buyer’s financial stability
Unless the buyer is serious about his home buying plan, they would not opt for a property visit, under the present circumstances. Nevertheless, the property purchase will depend on the buyer’s financial standing. Consequently, the broker should ensure that the buyer would be able to make the purchase quickly, if he likes the property. Considering many people’s finances are now less secure than they were before, this is extremely important.
Although it may be a sensitive issue, brokers will have to ask some hard financial questions, like the ones mentioned below, to the buyer prior to the visit:
- Is the buyer going to finance the purchase on his own?
- If they are taking a loan, are they in touch with the lender?
- Does the buyer have a pre-approved loan?
- How much time would it take for the bank to respond to their loan application?
- Are they aware of the loan amount they are eligible for?
- Have they factored in the additional costs like the stamp duty, the registration charge and the Goods and Services Tax involved with the purchase?
Dos and don’ts for buyers during site visits
No doubt, this is a buyer’s market. Amid demand hitting a record low due to the pandemic, those willing to invest in properties are being indulged by all stakeholders. Banks have reduced interest rates, to make home loans cheaper. States are announcing reduction in stamp duty rates, to make registration less costly. Builders are offering price discounts, to promote sales.
However, those allowing you to visit their properties are taking a much bigger risk, as there are no guarantees that the deal would actually materialise. This makes it incumbent upon the buyer and the broker to follow certain rules, vis-à-vis site visits, in these difficult times:
- Do not inform the seller about the site visit at the last moment. Give them at least two days, to prepare the house for a buyer visit.
- Try not to touch anything that would require sanitising after you leave.
- Arrange for a video chat between the buyer and the seller, so that they are able to discuss the finer points of the deal beforehand. This would help each party to make a decision faster. Also, if there are going to be any disagreements between the buyer and the seller, those would emerge at this stage, eliminating the need for the actual visit.
- The tendency to make the seller wait for you is the worst thing to do. This impacts your reputation and is reflective of a casual approach, something entirely not expected from a person in the business of real estate brokerage. Reach the site at the appointed time and ensure that the buyer is also on time.
- To assure the seller about your Coronavirus exposure status, download the Aarogya Setu app on your smartphone and ask the seller to do the same.
- In the best interest of everyone, keep the number of visitors from both parties low. The buyer should not be accompanied by more than one person. The same is true of the seller.
Dos and don’ts for sellers during site visits
Sellers too must be mindful of the fact that the buyer is taking a risk for the site visit. Hence, keep the number of potential buyers who will visit the property in a day to a minimum – this is certainly not the time for an open house. After a visit, the property must be cleaned and sanitised thoroughly, to maintain safety.
If you have any specific requests to make to the buyer when they come for the visit, tell them about it beforehand. It should not happen that they are denied access, because of not following a protocol that they were not informed about.
Is Aarogya Setu app a must while going for a site visit during COVID-19?
Sellers may deny you access to the premises, if your virus exposure status is not clearly known to them. Thus, buyers in India must download the Aarogya Setu app before they go for a site visit.
What is a virtual tour of a property?
Virtual tours enable buyers to take a digital walk-through of a home that is available for purchase. A video tour is not the same as a virtual tour of a property.
How can brokers ensure safety during site visits?
Brokers should ensure that all the parties to the site visit stick to the appointed time. Brokers should also practice and encourage their clients to maintain social distancing and avoid crowding.