Real Estate

Would You Buy Your Home Without Actually Seeing It In-Person?

The coronavirus pandemic has created unique situations in all areas of life, including the real estate industry.

Would you spend your savings on a home, sight-unseen? That’s the new reality, thanks to the “stay at home” guidelines in the city of Los Angeles, as the mayor has now banned in-person viewings.

Open houses aren’t allowed in Los Angeles, and prospective homebuyers can’t even book a private viewing. 

It’s one of the tightest restrictions when it comes to home sales in Southern California that’s left agents, sellers and buyers scrambling. 

Marcos Trueba said he considers himself one of the lucky buyers. He is currently in escrow on his first home in the San Fernando Valley.

If I could not walk through a home, I would not buy it.

Homebuyer Marcos Trueba

He was able to see his house in-person several times and put an offer in just before Mayor Eric Garcetti updated the “safer at home” order last week. 

“I would say the things that you can’t see in the photos, even in a virtual tour, you can’t see what the baseboards and the trims look like. You can’t see what the ceiling looks like, even if you angle up the camera you can’t see if there’s water damage,” Trueba said. 

But virtual tours are what agents like Rena Braud are now relying on.

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“There are times when the seller is actually taking the pictures on behalf of their home and they’ll be submitting those to the agent and then we’re utilizing the tools that we have to put together a virtual look of the property,” said Braud, a Compass Real Estate agent.  

The updated order deems real estate transactions essential, which means people can still buy and sell homes, though that has been difficult.  

Braud said some sellers have adjusted their prices.

“There are prices that have come down. That’s just normal in this market based on what’s happening,” Braud said. 

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Official statistics won’t be available until the end of the month, so it’s still too early to say what effect coronavirus has had on the market in Los Angeles.

But in February, just before the virus hit, the real estate tracking firm Corelogic released a report showing the median price of a single family home in Los Angeles county hit $644,000, an 8% increase from the year before.

“Keep in mind this is just temporary, and once we’re in a better position, and once the world is in a better position, real estate is going to pick right back up,” Braud said.

There could be a work-around.  Some agents interpret that if the listed home is vacant, and they don’t go with their clients, a buyer could let himself or herself into a property to look around before putting in an offer.

NBCLA has reached out to Mayor Garcetti’s office for clarification, and we are awaiting comment. 

The order applies to rentals as well. Any apartment showings have to be done virtually.

Editor's note: The city of LA has updated its regulation about in-person showings, according to the California Realtors Association:

Essential activities include, "Professional services, such as legal, leasing and real estate transactions, payroll or accounting services, when necessary to assist in the permitting, inspection, construction, transfer and recording of ownership of housing, and when necessary to achieve compliance with legally mandated activities.

Vacant units and real property may be shown, provided that appointments and other residential viewings must occur virtually or, if a virtual viewing is not feasible, by appointment with no more than two visitors at a time residing within the same household or living unit and one individual showing the unit (except that in-person visits are not allowed when the occupant is still residing in the residence)"

For more information, the California Realtors Association has the latest regulations by county/city.

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