Home buying

Sunset on Lake Okoboji, Iowa in the Summer.

Social distancing is transforming how people buy and sell homes

Interest rates are low, low, low.

Ask any real estate agent and they will tell you now is a great time to buy.

But there is one problem. The coronavirus pandemic has made it a lot harder for people to travel to the area to go house hunting, and even when they do, the house hunting is different from it ever has been before.

House hunting has gone virtual in many respects, according to some local Realtors. And the real estate world is doing what they can to adapt to today’s challenges and provide the best experience they can for both buyers and sellers in today’s market.

We asked some local Realtors the steps they are taking to help both buyers and sellers as we all adjust to this new world.

Aaron Jones

RE/MAX Lakes Realty

“Many would expect the COVID-19 situation to turn the real estate world upside down. That is not the case, at least here in the Iowa Great Lakes. One reason that we are so fortunate is certainly the very low interest rates that buyers are able to get right now. That has been a shot in the arm when we need it most. Secondly, and probably most importantly is the fact that real estate sales and real estate marketing has changed significantly over the last 20 years. We are able to do so many things online these days using tools we didn’t have 20, 10 or even five years ago. We have been saying for years that, like it or not, real estate sales has become much more transactional. We are able to buy and sell real estate many times without ever physically meeting the client face to face, and so in some ways we have been preparing for times like this.

For years, RE/MAX Lakes Realty has been focused on virtual real estate sales, utilizing marketing tools such as actual virtual tours, drone videos, FaceTime, narrated open houses, custom search app and listing notifications. We have been utilizing paperless tools such as online transaction management, electronic signature and soon-to-be remote notarizations. But more specifically, regarding the coronavirus, the safety of our agents, our clients, as well as the general public has to come first. We have extremely limited access to our office to maintain proper social distancing requirements, and we have redefined our procedures for listing and showing homes.”

Kirk Stauss

Stauss Realty

“The big change we see now is that we are doing almost everything virtual and are trying to do that as much as we can. There are multiple different virtual options and we try to match what will work best on each property. The great thing about the virtual aspect is that those who are interested in buying the property can go back to it over and over and over again without ever leaving their house. We’ve been able to Zoom with clients who have family members scattered all over the country and do virtual tours of a home with them all seeing it together even though they are far apart. No matter what, we are wearing masks and gloves and doing what we can to decrease the risk to the homeowners.

I miss the personal contact. There’s a real advantage to looking someone in the eye, but there have been some real benefits to taking this more into the virtual world. It’s been a big change, but I think we should just be positive about it and make the most of it.”

Eric Hoien

Hoien Realty

“We’ve been strong on virtual tours with photos and things before this but now we are transitioning to doing even more with more virtual touring options. We can FaceTime in real-time as we walk through the home or do video clips and e-mail it off to clients.

From our standpoint here on Hill Avenue, we can do it all from beginning to end without doing the face-to-face. We are used to doing business with people from all across the country and even halfway around the world, and now we are just using those same logistics with people even right here.”

Amy Maris

Okoboji Realty

“We’re trying to be diligent and thoughtful about keeping our buyers and our sellers safe. We are doing a lot of virtual tours of homes. We are sort of letting our sellers drive the bus in terms of making sure we honor any requests that they have when people are doing in-person tours of the homes. We are masking. We are staying six feet apart and we are wiping down doors with Clorox wipes. We are also asking our sellers to turn on all the lights and open the curtains and blinds so we are reducing the number of touches we have in the property.

It’s still a good time to buy and don’t hesitate to ask your Realtor for special requests as a buyer or a seller. Don’t be shy about what your needs are.”