If the current medical crisis teaches us one thing, it is that no one exists in a bubble. Mother Nature, the economy, society and our social networks are all intertwined in ways we never would have imagined a few months ago.

Real estate is no exception. The most frequently asked questions right now are: What’s happening to the market? Are we going to see a crash similar to that of 2008? How long will the market take to bounce back?

No one has a crystal ball, but the underlying feeling is that while a downturn can be expected in the short term, the market should bounce back pretty quickly once restrictions on economic and social activity are lifted. The fundamental difference between 2008 and 2020 is that the former was caused by a structurally flawed economy, the latter a medical crisis with economic consequences.

In Colorado, the Attorney General’s Office has decreed that while certain components of a real estate transaction are deemed essential – closings, document recording, inspections and walk-throughs of properties already under contract among them – showing a property to a prospective buyer or marketing a home through an open house is not essential and therefore not currently permitted.

Spring is the time of year we generally see an upsurge in number of properties listed for sale. Given the circumstances, some property owners are deciding to hold off on listing their homes until restrictions on travel, employment and social distancing are relaxed. While this makes sense on certain levels, property owners should be aware that once this happens, there will likely be an upsurge of properties hitting the market at the same time.

Accordingly, it makes sense to take advantage of this downtime for sellers to prepare their homes to stand out when the time comes to list.

Curb appeal is an obvious place to start. Experts tell us that a prospective buyer takes only a few seconds to subconsciously decide whether or not they can see themselves living in a home. Hence, those first few seconds when they pull up in front of your home for the first time are all important.

What small, relatively inexpensive improvements can you make to enhance this experience? Weed the front yard? Re-establish your landscape barriers? Plant a couple of new shrubs? Perhaps even consider repainting the home’s exterior?

Once past the first hurdle, a second one must be cleared upon entering the home. Here, the second buying decision takes place, once again in a matter of seconds. The critical question a seller must ask themselves is: Will the buyer be able to instantly look past how I live in my home, to imagine how they might?

The answer to this question lies in depersonalizing and decluttering your home. You might be proud of all the high school trophies your children have won. The collage of photos covering the fridge may tell a great story of social highlights of your life to date. That elk head in the living room might bring back memories of the greatest hunt you’ve ever been on. But all of this is of no consequence to the buyer. In fact, it is a hindrance. So, start your packing early. Get all those personal mementos into boxes stacked neatly in the garage. Strip the home back to its essentials.

Upgrading the interior of your home can be a tricky proposition. On one hand, freshening up a dated kitchen by painting cabinets and installing new hardware can be an easy, relatively cheap fix. On the other hand, it is easy to spend significant sums of money on upgrades that don’t provide a return on investment and in some cases can even hinder a sale.

This is where having a conversation with your Realtor prior to beginning the process can be helpful. Having been inside many homes, and being in daily contact with home buyers, can give a Realtor a sound grasp on what is worth spending money on and what isn’t.

In short, the current situation will not last. When some return to normalcy comes along, expect the real estate market to bounce back relatively quickly. Sellers who have used this downtime wisely stand to be the ones to gain most when this happens.

Hayden Mellsop is a board member of Realtors of Central Colorado.

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