By Amy Zabetakis
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought its share of 2020 surprises, including a home-sales boom here in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Indeed, real estate continues to trade at a head-spinning rate here in our local communities slowing only due to a lack of inventory.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the market belongs to sellers alone. Buyers are still savvy, unwilling to overpay or to let sellers off the hook on any problems that emerge through inspections. They want move-in ready houses, at the right price.
If you are considering selling your home, be sure to use a Real Estate Broker with substantial knowledge of the local market and buying trends. and listen to your Broker when setting the price for your home. Even in the current market, the rule of thumb holds: A well-priced home will generate substantially more interest than one that is overpriced.
Here are a few more guidelines if you are considering listing your house or are in the market to buy a new home at this unprecedented time.
- Do some due diligence on the deed. Make sure there are no unusual easements or restrictions that limit the use of the property. While many Town Halls are still closed to the general public or have limited office hours, in many cases you can access land records online.
- Line up your permits. Be sure all work done on the home is documented by the appropriate permits and Certificates of Occupancy. With many of us home these days in search of a project, local building officials are reporting an uptick in unpermitted work by DIYers using the time to, for example, finish their basement. While a homeowner can legally work on their own home without a license, you still need a permit from the building department. Again here, even if you can’t get into the Building Department in person, there is much you can accomplish online.
- Verify any flood paperwork. If the house is in a flood zone, flood insurance is an added factor. Make sure a current, non-expired flood elevation certificate is available so buyers can quickly and easily obtain insurance.
- Uncover any liens. Make sure you are aware of all liens on the property. It’s not enough to rely on information in the town’s land records, since COVID has caused delays in the recording of documents on the land records. If you refinanced recently, make sure your attorney has the correct, up-to-date loan information so the loan can be paid off at closing.
- Set your timeline carefully. Before executing a contract, consider mortgage contingency dates and closing dates, along with all delay provisions. Lenders are inundated with requests for new loans for purchases and refinances, and can be very backed up. Buyers should make sure that their lender has confirmed that they can perform within the timeframe specified by the contract. On the other hand, sellers need to be sure they’ll have an alternative place to live a day or more before the closing date. Don’t assume a rental or a new home will be available— there’s nothing worse than selling your family home without a place to go from there.
We welcome all of the new home buyers to Fairfield County, and are excited to see our community grow. We’re here as a trusted partner to help you navigate these challenging times.
Amy Zabetakis is a founding member of Rucci Law Group, LLC. She practices primarily in the areas of real estate and zoning. Amy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-202-9686 x204.