May 4

How PR helped me buy a house…during a global pandemic

We all continue to digest the latest news on COVID-19 in the media and learn more on how to cope with this “new normal.” What I have enjoyed about SPR’s blog these last number of weeks is the diverse topics our team has covered related to COVID-19.

If you are a follower of our blogs, it’s likely you’ve read about the benefits of working in PR and how many of the skills we develop and use professionally can prove useful in our personal life. Even more so at SPR because of our diverse clients and seasoned crisis management skills. So what better time to put those skills to use in my personal life than when my wife and I bought our first home on Friday…during a global pandemic. Little did I know when we started this process, that my PR skills would prove valuable.

Getting started is like working with a new client

As we started the search process for our first home, almost all of it was foreign to us. We heard second-hand from friends and family who are homeowners on how everything works but until you are the one buying a house, it’s difficult to fully grasp what all goes into it.

I found myself using similar strategies when we take on a new client at SPR. We need to learn as much as possible by gathering background information so we can be educated and bring a knowledge base for improved and smoother communication with key personnel.

The same applied to us when we were beginning the home-buying process. The first thing we did was do as much research as we could on the process and what we were looking for in a house. I learned early on that what you think you want can change once you start attending open houses. Seeing features and layouts in person makes all the difference (hint: the pictures online always make everything look bigger). We also looked at our budget, spoke to new and longtime homeowners on their experiences and used trusted referrals for choosing professionals to work with such as a real estate agent, lender and insurance provider.

Tools of the trade

Because SPR works with a number of municipalities, I felt I had an advantage when it came to knowing how to look up certain information on houses we were interested in. Once we saw the listing of our home, part of my research included knowing how to look up information online such as property tax payments, the assessed value, utility costs, previous construction on the home and how to obtain permits.

This helped us get a better idea of what our budget would look like annually and how to plan for some future projects we had in mind. It was also useful being able to easily navigate through my new Township’s website and sign up for alerts on information important to me as a new community member. I certainly would not have known how to do this had it not be for my work with our municipal clients.

Accustomed to roller skates

Being able to work on a project for one client, then turn on a dime to focus on an urgent matter with another has certainly sharpened our roller skating skills at SPR. And while thankfully I didn’t have to “bill” any time during our home buying process at a crisis rate, there are many time-sensitive moving parts when things start to get serious that I felt prepared to handle given the similarities of tasks and projects needing to be completed at work.

From gathering quotes and selecting multiple insurance policies, communicating with our real estate agent and lender, moving dates, inspections and negotiations, for the better or worse, it all seems to happen at the same time. Being comfortable multitasking while on a deadline was just another day at the office.

Navigating COVID-19

On top of all this, we were in the middle of a global pandemic, which added an extra hurdle to navigate. They say timing is everything, and we certainly can attest to that. But the adjustments we had to make on behalf of our clients during COVID-19, and for ourselves at SPR, had already prepared me for the hurdles we would have to overcome with buying a house.

We were able to schedule a showing of the house, which had to be condensed to under 30 minutes and require gloves to be worn inside, just before things began to shut down. Just a few days later, almost all in-person showings were cancelled in the Grand Rapids area, and online listings nearly halted completely.

Since spring is the prime season for real estate agents, especially in Grand Rapids, this was unheard of. We also were unable to attend the inspection, which is a critical time to familiarize yourself more with your potential new home. Thankfully, our inspector took a lot of pictures and was kind enough to speak to us on the phone and go over his report. Just like when working on COVID-19 related projects at the office, what we normally might do in certain situations no longer applied, and we had to adjust accordingly.

After all these steps and more were completed, it was finally time for closing day on Friday. We were making the largest purchase of our lives on a house we’ve been in for a grand total of 30 minutes. The closing was slightly anticlimactic.

With no one else allowed to attend the appointment, it was just the two of us. We had to stay in our car and were handed a large stack of papers to sign. Afterwards, someone came and retrieved them and that was it. Similar to an event we may help a client plan ahead for months in advance, we can spend hours each week checking off our to-do list and when the day comes, everything goes smoothly.

In the grand scheme of things, we are lucky. Everything worked out and the adjustments we had to make due to COVID-19 were minor. While it’s by no means required to have a PR background to successfully navigate through the process of buying a home, it did help in more ways than I would have thought. Once again, I’m thankful to work in a profession that can pay dividends in multiple facets of life.

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