Home Buying and Selling During the Pandemic


With all non-essential Massachusetts businesses ordered closed as of 12pm on March 24th, we have received many questions about the likelihood of buying or selling a home on the Cape during the pandemic. Here is what we can tell you, based on information provided to us by both the state of Massachusetts and our local Realtor boards (Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors and Massachusetts Association of Realtors).

Real Estate Showings & Open Houses

Although all real estate offices are closed, Realtors are still allowed to meet with their clients outside of the office and show them properties if the Seller is allowing showings. However, there can be no more than 10 people at a showing and because of this, Open Houses are not allowed at this time. Realtors can conduct virtual open houses if they choose, and these can be listed in the MLS, just like traditional Open Houses.

Buyers, Sellers, and Realtors are advised to follow CDC guidelines for staying safe at all times.

Real Estate Closings

Real estate closings are still happening as scheduled on the Cape. The Registry of Deeds is open for recording only. Buyer and Seller attorneys assist their clients in determining the best logistical approach for the closing.

Rules regarding smoke inspections have been relaxed to allow the closing to take place as scheduled, and the smoke inspection completed at another time.

Current Market Activity

Each day, new homes continue to come on the market and active properties are going under agreement. In the past week, 87 new residential properties came on the market in Barnstable County, compared to 49 during the same week in 2019. 47 properties went under agreement in the past week, which is roughly half of last year’s number during the same week. At present, there are 1,315 single family homes on the market, which is roughly 10% lower than the same time last year. It’s hard to predict what the next few weeks will hold, although common sense points to the market being quieter but still operational in April.

Advice to Buyers

If you are actively in the market for a home on the Cape, first and foremost, be sure you are registered for Daily Alerts so that you see all new listings that come on the market. Visit my website to access the entire Cape Cod MLS inventory.

Second, if you are not already working with a Realtor, you should consider choosing one soon. Realtors have access to information on the MLS that you do not have, such as special disclosures and showing instructions, and even homes that are coming soon but have not yet hit the market. A good Buyer’s Agent can empower and streamline your home search process, and can also help you substantially during the offer, negotiating, and closing stages.

Whether or not you want to see homes in person vs. just looking online right now is a decision you must make for yourself. If you do choose to view homes in person, you should be extra careful not to touch anything in the home, limit your conversation inside the home, cover your face with your arm if you cough or sneeze, and make your showing as brief as possible. Please note that some Sellers may not allow live showings at this time.

Advice to Sellers

Many Sellers are wondering whether they should list now or wait until the pandemic is behind us. This is a decision that only you can make. But here are some considerations.

There are buyers actively looking online now, and if your home is not listed, they of course will not know about it. If it is listed, even if many off-Cape buyers are waiting before traveling here to look at homes, they will at least have it on their list for when they are ready to make the trip.

Another consideration is whether or not you are comfortable with buyers entering your home for showings. This is especially true if you actually live in the home and need to return to it after the showing. If the home is vacant, you may be more tolerant to allowing your Realtor to show it. If you want your home on the market but do not want to allow any live showings, your Realtor could offer a virtual tour for now, and restrict live showings until you are comfortable. It may not be ideal for selling your home, but at least your home would still be on the market and would be seen.

If you live in the home and you DO wish to allow live showings, consider turning on all lights and opening all important doors yourself. Instruct your Realtor to not allow anything to be touched and to leave all lights on. Also, if you are fortunate enough to have an extra bottle of hand sanitizer, you may consider making one available near the showing entrance and requesting that all visitors use the sanitizer on their way in and out of the house. This will help protect everyone.

If you prefer to just wait to list your home until it seems safe, another option that will be available to your Realtor in early April is to advertise your home in the MLS as “Coming Soon”. The Cape Cod MLS is introducing this new status to allow the entire Realtor community to know that your home will soon be on the market. If a Realtor has an interested Buyer, he/she can let the Buyer know about it. The listing will not broadcast out to sites like Zillow and Realtor.com, but at least the Realtors will know about it and can give their Buyers a heads-up.

If you are planning to buy or sell a home on the Cape, it would be my privilege to assist you. Please contact me for assistance. And please, during this trying time, stay safe and healthy. Follow the CDC’s guidelines to protect you and your loved ones as much as possible at all times.

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