Smart Solutions: Buying, selling in the time of COVID-19

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

While this would normally be the season for those hoping to buy or sell a home, like many other industries in the age of the coronavirus, the real estate market has been hit particularly hard.

Still, there is optimism from some like Dan Gutfreund, a real estate specialist for Signature Sotheby’s International Realty in Birmingham. As he explains, though business cannot be conducted in the traditional sense for now, some parts are deemed essential, such as title companies, lenders and inspections.

“We’re still closing deals,” he says. “People need shelter and we have to adapt to the new normal with more internet interaction.”

Facetime lets Gutfreund stay in touch with clients, while he uses Zoom for virtual meetings with multiple people. Matterport, a 3-D camera system that captures a space with 360-degree views has been another valuable tool. “It’s as if you’re walking through the house yourself,” he says.

“The beauty of technology has allowed us to bring real estate to the forefront,” adds Gutfreund.

This stunning home in Birmingham that is currently on the market exudes major curb appeal.

For some, this has turned out to be a good time to look for a new home. “People have more time and when the right house pops up there’s less competition for those who have been waiting six months to find the right house,” says Gutfreund. In addition, he says interest rates are at an all-time low.

For sellers, he recommends some home improvement projects to increase resale value that don’t require a trip to the store.

“You can still practice social distancing and knock out a project a day,” says Gutfreund who suggests a spring cleanup for your garden with existing supplies like shovels and rakes to enhance your curb appeal.  

Rid your garage of unwanted items and sweep and power wash the floor. You can also address the excess that accumulates in closets and basements, a common area to stash your stuff. “It’s easy to put it out of sight and out of mind, but others can’t get past it. When walking a space, their perception of the area diminishes,” says Gutfreund. “It’s important to increase your storage capacity.”

Wash the windows you can access from inside your home and deep clean carpets and baseboards. Replacing burned out bulbs will light up a room. “As a buyer, you see more than you do as a seller,” he says. “People who live there get complacent.”

Outdoor projects can include putting out your patio furniture and touching up exterior paint as needed for a great first impression. “With a neglected house, the perception of the value goes down,” he says. “It’s important to know the house is in tip-top shape.”

Elizabeth Barrett, interior designer and owner of Elizabeth Barrett Design in Birmingham, says designers can do online consultations during this time to assist with furniture placement and refreshing your rooms. “When you’re ready to sell your home, you can have that part prepared and the home staged,” she says.

Designers can also pick paint colors, adds Barrett who is currently working from home where she has samples and swatches on hand.

Lastly, she says light is so important when showing a home. “This is a good time to consider removing heavy draperies if you already have blinds,” says Barrett. “You can patch the holes with touchup paint and this will make the space feel more open.”

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at