This spring, it seemed like just about everything was canceled. Vacations, concerts, and even schools were postponed indefinitely, and people across the globe were asked to just stay home.
But for some, “home” is an evolving thing — especially for those who already had plans to buy a house this spring or need more space for a growing family. Many have been watching the record low-interest rates on mortgages and wondering: should I buy a house now or wait?
The real estate market has certainly slowed, and shopping for a new house is a very different ball game. But if you’re considering buying a house during the pandemic, real estate agents and moving companies have made it possible to keep your plans in motion.
Please note: real estate and moving regulations during the pandemic vary state by state and are subject to change. Be sure to contact your local realtor to find out if home sales are possible in your state at this time.
Take a virtual tour
Once the national stay home mandate was put in place, home tours changed entirely. Many sellers across the U.S. took advantage of the 3D virtual tour features available on popular real estate websites and started uploading their listings. All of a sudden, potential buyers could tour countless houses from the safety of home. It became clear that the real estate market has changed, but not stopped.
These virtual 3D tours are a great place to start, but what if you want more detail or to ask the agent questions about something you saw? Depending on the seller’s situation, some agents will offer real-time video tours via FaceTime or Skype. This will give you the opportunity to ask more in-depth questions about a property you are seriously interested in. Moving during COVID-19 isn’t something to take lightly, so it’s best to do as much virtual research as you can.
Take extra precautions for an in-person tour
If a virtual tour isn’t an option, or it just doesn’t satisfy your need to know what you’re buying, it is still possible in some states to visit the home in person. Most states have prohibited in-person open houses, so you’ll need to arrange a time with your real estate agent. He or she should be up to date on the regulations regarding real estate during coronavirus, so look to your agent for guidance — and plan to take extra precautions to keep yourself and the current homeowners safe:
- Send just one person to tour the home. Bring your phone to take more photos and videos if you’ll be sharing with your family or partner.
- Wear a mask and gloves when you visit the home and avoid touching anything that you don’t have to. The best thing to do is to keep your hands in your pockets!
- Abide by the requests of the current homeowner. They may not want you to enter certain rooms or may have very specific guidelines around how long you can be in the home. Be courteous!
- Maintain 6 foot distancing with your real estate agent at all times. Even if it means one of you standing in the kitchen while the other is in the dining room, you can do it!
Alternative appraisals and inspections might be an option
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has extended its allowance for alternative appraisals through at least June 30. What does that mean for you? Banks can now allow the mortgage appraisal to be done virtually or from outside the home in order to reduce the in-person contact necessary. The FHFA has also made allowances for Power of Attorney and remote, online notarizations to assist with purchase closings, freeing up one important step along the way.
How this all works in your area depends on current state policies. Check with your realtor to see which of these alternatives can help to keep your purchase moving along.
Be realistic and expect a few delays
With so much uncertainty and so many additional considerations, it’s inevitable that there will be delays along the way. You can do your best to prevent surprises by having all of your paperwork in order, but most of them will be out of your control.
Many real estate agents are extending the timeframe for expected closing dates, but delays with the bank, inspectors, or even for the current occupants might still push back the sale. If you find yourself creeping towards the closing date and there’s no end in sight, take a deep breath! You can resubmit the paperwork and still move forward with the sellers.
Give your movers a virtual tour
Using Unpakt to get a moving quote will allow you to do a virtual inventory of all of your belongings without requiring the movers to do an on-site assessment. Beyond that? Some moving companies will allow you to give them a virtual tour of your home so they can be sure they bring all the right equipment to move your large items or navigate your awkward stairs. Fewer surprises = more efficient move!
So: is it a good time to buy a house? With the right attention to detail and precautionary steps, it could be! Take some time to do your house hunting homework, and best of luck finding your new dream home.