What to do when a seller has COVID? Buy the house over Zoom, of course

Jan 26 2022, 10:08 pm

Two years into the pandemic, most people have gotten used to the idea of using Zoom for pretty much anything, from mundane work meetings to celebratory baby showers to routine doctor’s appointments. But how about buying a house over Zoom?

It might seem unconventional to many, but in a world of highly competitive real estate that moves at lightening speed and COVID-19 quarantines threatening to slow things down, sometimes you’ve just got to roll with the punches. And that’s exactly what one Toronto buyer recently did.

Real estate agent Shane Little had been searching for a home for his clients in Toronto’s east end. After sending out emails to dozens of local realtors, he heard back about a four-bedroom, four-bathroom house in Riverdale that hadn’t been listed yet, and the sellers were interested in striking a deal before it ever hit the market.

“We looked it up, did a drive by, loved the look of the house, and it checked all [of the client’s] boxes,” Little told Daily Hive.

The only problem: the seller’s son had COVID-19 and no one could come inside the house to view it.

Enter: a Zoom house tour. Little’s clients were able to do a virtual viewing of the home, courtesy of the seller themselves, and within two hours, they submitted an offer. Of course, having a seller give a tour of their own home is rather unconventional. So, listing agent Trevor Bond got to work prepping his client, and the house remotely.

“For this one, I had the seller take me through, and then I kind of said, ‘Oh let’s maybe move this over here and change this,'” Bond said. “Minor things like opening all the curtains and blinds, turning on all lights, and, you know, I had to remind her that her thumb was over the camera and to hold it the right way.”

During the tour, the seller operated the camera while Bond commentated to both Little and his clients. The setup, although unconventional, meant that the buyers were able to ask questions directly to the seller.

“Normally the golden rule is never have buyers and sellers communicate with each other,” Bond said. “But in this case… it became just a nice kind of casual tour and it was positive.”

As one would hope when submitting an offer on a house sight unseen, the sale was conditional on a home inspection, which Little says was completed after the seller’s family had finished quarantining.

Although video tours have become more common in the real estate industry, especially during the pandemic, having to purchase a home in your own city over Zoom is an extreme rarity.

“I kind of think it was lightning in a bottle,” Little said. “It was just a very unique opportunity that presented itself and the way to get it done was to do it over Zoom. I don’t know if as things start to open up it will continue — I think it was a very specific January 2022 lockdown event.”

Laura HanrahanLaura Hanrahan

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