Presale home inspections are still going on despite the coronavirus pandemic, health safety concerns, and maybe some pressure to skip them — because home sales, while slowing down, are not out.

"Home inspections are a critical part of the home-buying process. They give the buyer the opportunity to make sure the home is safe and there are no surprises or defects they were not aware of when they made the offer. In Oklahoma, if the buyer is not comfortable with the inspection they are able to cancel the contract and get their earnest money back," said Kathy Fowler, managing broker for McGraw Realtors, 908 SW 107. "COVID-19 has added a couple extra steps to the inspection process."

Personal protection equipment is, for now, among the tools of the home inspection trade, as it should be for anyone working in close proximity to other people.

"For the safety of the inspector, I arrive in advance of the inspection, enter the home wearing a mask and gloves, and wipe down the fixtures and light switches with Lysol wipes. Inspectors are wearing gloves and masks as well during the inspection," Fowler said. "We ask that people don't attend other than the buyer and social distancing is observed. The buyer is also encouraged to wear a mask and gloves. After the inspection is complete, I wipe down anything that was touched while turning out lights and securing the property."

On-site inspections can't move online, like home sales and marketing largely have. But not every aspect of the inspection process has to be handled in person, said Jack Werner, owner of A to Z Inspections, 3625 N McKinley Ave.

"From my perspective, of course, an on-site inspection is a must for the buyer, and even the seller although the benefit to the seller is not readily apparent. I am concerned that buyers will be pressured to forgo a thorough inspection," Werner said. "Inspections can be and are being done.

"A to Z inspectors wear booties, gloves and masks, wipe down door knobs, faucet handles and other surfaces we touch, and provide a 'virtual report' in place of the usual prepandemic) post-inspection walk through the property with the client. Our virtual report is a walk-through, pointing out the significant findings and broadcasting pictures of them through our phones while in conversation with the client. As is our usual practice, the detailed report with photos is emailed at the end of the day or no later than the next morning.

"Whether life and finances are going really well or seem on the brink, significant investment decisions require due diligence. By insisting that the inspector follow these practices, the homeowner can minimize the risk of disease transmission. By insisting on a thorough inspection, the seller can minimize the risk of buying a money pit. Everybody stays safe.

Safety steps

HouseMaster, a home inspection franchiser with a location in Tulsa, is discouraging buyers from being present during inspections, and asking sellers to keep their distance from inspectors, said Kathleen Kuhn, president and CEO.

"Our No. 1 priority is to help keep our families and our communities safe," Kuhn said. "Fortunately, a home inspection does not require face-to-face contact. Prior to the pandemic, we would encourage buyers to participate in the home inspection process to help them better understand the condition of the home.

"Today, for the most part, we are going solo. If the home is not vacant, we ask home sellers to stay secluded in a part of the home away from the inspector. Our inspectors are taking (care) to follow all CDC and Health Canada recommendations."

HouseMaster, based in Somerville, New Jersey, also is leaning on digital communications technology, including online inspection, virtual report reviews and cloud-based collaborative repair list generator. Buyers and sellers negotiate price and repairs based on home inspection reports.

Sales were brisk and on the increase here when the coronavirus struck.

Realtors closed 3,681 home sales in the metro area the first three months of the year, 5% more than in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors.

In the Edmond market area, the increase was double that, 10.4%, and the first quarter of 2019 saw record sales, said Brian Preston, owner of RE/MAX at Home, 3224 S Broadway Ave., Suite 225, in Edmond.

"Those were under contract before COVID-19," Preston said. "But the pending contracts are down, 18% from February and 20% from last March, but not as much as I would have thought."

Fowler said inspections go on as home sales go on, up, down or flat.

"The inspection process itself and the importance of doing the inspections are the same," she said. "During this unusual time, Realtors and inspectors are working together to keep our clients and each other safe while working through the home-buying process. Everyone is masked and gloved, and we wipe down doorknobs, fixtures and light switches before and after. The last one I did, the buyer and I stayed 6-8 feet apart in the front yard talking while the inspectors did their thing."