Ashburn, Virginia--Despite the changes resulting from COVID-19, people throughout the country are continuing to search for and purchase their next home. According to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR), "the number of properties going under contract and closing have essentially tracked with the usual seasonal patterns."
This is great news for people moving to Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living managed community in Ashburn, Virginia. Since Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 on March 12, 2020, the business side of real estate, meaning the processing of offers and the execution of contracts, according to NVAR, "has shown tremendous resiliency in keeping the market moving and is the result of several factors, including adopting existing and emerging technologies and common sense strategies and actions."
Prospective Ashby Ponds community members are even further aided by a team of hand-selected experts in the moving process. Both Meg Olympia of Long & Foster Real Estate and WayForth, a moving, downsizing, and space planning company, have continued to work with Ashby Ponds throughout the pandemic, using both technology and approved safety measures to help their clients.
"Words cannot express how grateful we are to all our trusted realty and moving partners for their resiliency, creativity and flexibility when it comes to helping our community members move to Ashby Ponds during this unusual time," says Director of Sales Holly Henderson. "They continue to go above and beyond to serve our community."
Considered essential employees, real estate agents throughout Virginia were allowed to continue working and serving their clients throughout the pandemic.
"I continued in-person appointments with those who were comfortable, wearing a mask and gloves and maintaining a six-foot distance during discussions," says Ms. Olympia. "For those who were not comfortable meeting face-to-face, I offer online meetings for a discussion and possible home tour. This goes a long way in getting the process started."
While in the past Ms. Olympia relied on a combination of photographs and online tours when listing new homes for sale, in recent months she's found new ways to boost connections.
"I now provide a virtual walk-through, which allows a prospective buyer to see exactly how a house flows without being there in person," she says. "We also host online, live open houses."
Similarly, WayForth uses online technology to aid in their ability to help clients stage their houses for sale, downsize, and create a packing and moving plan.
"In addition to doing a traditional home visit with the client, we can schedule virtual home visits," says Megan O'Rourke, WayForth's Client Experience Manager. "We arrange ahead of time the technology piece to ensure a smooth and productive virtual visit. The client will walk around their home and show us [everything virtually]. This has been quite successful. Many times, we are also helping a client downsize. This has not stopped during the [shelter at home directive]. Clients are able to work one-on-one virtually with a project manager or participate in virtual seminars."
However, both Ms. Olympia and Ms. O'Rourke are careful to point out that, although technology is helpful, it is not necessary for clients to know and/or feel comfortable with its usage to sell their home.
"I worked with a couple moving to Ashby Ponds who were putting their house on the market in late March," says Ms. Olympia. "They admitted to me that they were not well versed in technology and were uncomfortable using it. With their approval, I coordinated with contractors to prepare their house for sale. The couple received multiple offers within four days without using technology. Instead, I worked with staff members at Ashby Ponds and the clients, all over the phone. It all went smoothly."
Keeping it clean
All of these efforts are further supported by the current strength of the Northern Virginia real estate market.
"Inventory was low before the pandemic hit, but it is even lower now," says Ms. Olympia. "This is great news for sellers who are still seeing multiple offers. The buyers who are looking right now are serious and often need a new house because of job relocation or the expiration of a lease. As a result, we work diligently to use all means possible to make our sellers comfortable so they can take advantage of the currently healthy market."
While Ms. Olympia and other real estate agents are able to conduct a majority of their business by computer or telephone, the packing and moving services provided by WayForth often require some amount of in-the-home contact.
As a result, all WayForth employees are required to attend mandatory health and safety training before working in a client's home. Some of the company's new safety guidelines include the mandate to completely clean and sanitize all offices, warehouses, supplies and trucks/vans. Teams are required to regularly wash their hands every 30 minutes when arriving and leaving a project site. All employees working in homes are required to have their temperature taken and checked regularly while on site as well as utilize face masks and gloves.
"Erickson Living, WayForth and their real estate agents have put in place many new safety protocols to protect the health and safety of the residents, staff and communities," says Ms. O'Rourke. "From a virtual home visit to virtual downsizing to an actual move, prospective clients can feel confident that safety is the number one priority at all times. Once in the community, the new residents are well taken care of by an amazing staff. My very own parents live in an Erickson community. This brings my family great peace of mind knowing they have everything they need to live safe and happy."
About Ashby Ponds: Ashby Ponds, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 132-acre campus in Ashburn, Virginia. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,650 residents and 550 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of Ashby Ponds.
Written by Kelly Shue