Ask McEnearney: Rebecca McCullough

To state the obvious, these are unique and challenging times. Coming into this spring’s real estate market, we were excited and felt a strong market ahead of us. Listings were in great demand. Interest rates were at historic lows, and buyers were looking. We had started to see bidding wars in some high demand areas.

Fast forward a few weeks. Interest rates are still low, but the stock market has taken significant losses. People are concerned for their jobs, and social distancing is now the norm.

What does that mean for real estate? The answer may be different where you live. Here in Northern Virginia, we are taking it one day at a time. As agents, our first priority has always been, and will always be, our clients. What do our clients need and want, and how can we help them?

Let’s begin with our sellers. Surprisingly, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR) reported this week that they have seen an uptick in listings. Maybe the close confinement with our families is making people realize it’s time for a bigger home. Maybe people who have been considering selling now have the time to really put some thought into it.

Agents are getting creative to get their listings seen, while avoiding high levels of traffic through the home. Open houses are being significantly reduced or eliminated. We already have the ability to post up to 150 pictures of a home, and agents are now adding more virtual tours to improve the level of detail the listings can convey. This helps the online buyer get a much better feel of the flow of the home. We are also seeing agents use Zoom to host virtual open houses and, with permission from the seller, FaceTime to show properties.

If after seeing all the internet has to offer, a buyer wishes to have an in-person showing, one can still be made at this time. In order to encourage only serious buyers for a showing, buyer agents may be asked for a pre-qualification letter by the listing agent before a showing is confirmed. A mortgage broker can pre-qualify a buyer over the phone. No need to go into a bank.

Once at the home, expect to find hand sanitizer and disposable gloves. If you suspect you may have the virus or know you do, please don’t go through the home. You will just have to wait until another comes available when you are well if this one is no longer available.

If, after walking through the home, the buyer wants to make an offer, the steps will remain the same. Fortunately, contracts with electronic signatures have been used by the majority of agents for years. Executing contracts electronically will ensure minimal personal contact during this process. NVAR has introduced a COVID-19 addendum to the contract This addendum attempts to deal with situations that may arise due to the coronavirus. Talk to your agent if it makes sense to include that with your offer.

Post ratification steps will likely be the same, including home inspections, radon tests, and appraisals. The same rules will apply to any individuals who go through the home. Hand washing, sanitizer, and gloves. Buyers may choose to not be present at these. Again, something to discuss the pros and cons with your agent.

Settlement companies are working to adapt their practices to ensure timely closings. Although some parts of courthouses are closing, land records have been deemed an essential service. Therefore, title can be recorded, and subsequently, settlement agents can disburse funds.

In closing, the real estate market is still operating, and real estate agents are here to help. Agents are continuously educating themselves to the changing needs of clients, contracts, industry standards, and conditions. Whether the decision is to move now or down the road, having a professional help guide you through is like wearing a life jacket in a boat. Maybe you get lucky and don’t need it, but why take the chance, reach out to a professional who can keep you safe.

Rebecca McCullough is a licensed Realtor with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Alexandria, VA. If you would like more information on selling or buying in today’s complex market, contact Rebecca at 571-384-0941 or visit her website

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: or call 703.549.9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreMcEnearney

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