When going through a divorce, one of the major concerns is whether to remain in your home or sell it. During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York had temporarily suspended real estate showings. Now that New Yorkers can show their homes, the real estate market has certainly opened up. I asked New York residential real estate transaction attorney, Helene Pangalos, www.hplawpc.com, for her top five tips on navigating the sale of your home during the pandemic, and here is her sage advice.
1. Interview Brokers
You will be relying on your broker for up-to-date advice, so interview more than one broker. Brokers need to provide you with recent comparable sales prices based on recent home sales--and yes, there were sales during the pandemic. Ask about his/her track record in your local market. Also, consider whether the broker brought a teammate with him/her to meet you, and ask the broker who will handle showings and negotiations. Did the broker meet with you wearing a mask? This will be a precursor to how the broker will handle the health and safety of your home with potential buyers. Ask for references!
2. Look at your home as if you are a buyer with a critical eye
What would you want to see if you first entered into your own home? Make a short (or long) list of what needs to be done so that it shines – landscaping? painting? decluttering? repairs? Your broker should give you some good tips on what to do to the house to make it show-worthy. All obvious maintenance items must be repaired, and worn out items hidden or removed (like your favorite but worn out recliner chair). Closets must be organized, and floors polished. Do not skimp on curb appeal or décor. A buyer’s interest (or lack of interest) is immediate, and it is very hard to change it once formed.
3. Be CDC Compliant
Buyers should be screened before coming into your home with a temperature check at the door, and also wearing a mask and gloves. Make sure that your broker is providing them before permitting strangers to enter your home, and if not, buy them for the broker. Consider spraying each room with Lysol before and after each showing, and wipe down doorknobs. Also, house-hunting during the pandemic shouldn’t be a pastime, so make sure potential buyers are genuinely interested, and have them pre-screened financially by your savvy broker. The pottential buyer should have lender pre-approval letters and gift letters for down payments, and proof of income.
4. Outdoor Space
Most buyers are now, more than ever, interested in outdoor space. Many buyers are moving from Manhattan out to the suburbs for that particular reason. Is there room for a pool, a “She Shed,” “Portable Office,” or swing set? Not only is curb appeal important, but consider adding a swing set or a new backyard table, chairs, couch and umbrella to the backyard, so that families can envision living and being there.
5 Price, Price, Price!
Finally, the old adage of “Location, Location, Location” is no longer the biggest issue – it is now “Price, Price, Price.” Mortgage interest rates have never been lower, and many are fleeing Manhattan for Long Island, even with real estate taxes being relatively high. While the sales market is hot right now, you still want to price it reasonably to secure a buyer’s interest and be able to close before school begins.
As a reminder to my clients, if you are in the midst of a divorce action, due to the temporary restraining order, you cannot sell your house unless you have a written stipulation with you spouse to do so. Please consult with your divorce attorney before placing your home on the market for sale in order to discuss the sale terms and consequences, as well as to draft a sale stipulation. The terms should include the selected broker, the initial sales price and potential decrease in sale price if the home does not sell within a certain period of time, who will pay for any repairs or renovations to get the house ready for sale, who will be responsible for the capital gains taxes, if any, and whether the net proceeds of sale will be held in escrow or distributed to one or both of the parties.
Helene Pangalos, Esq. has focused on residential real estate transactions for over 25 years. She can be reached at (212) 439-6132 and firstname.lastname@example.org .