If you’ve been looking forward to spring house-hunting season all year, you’re probably gravely disappointed right now, especially if you’ve got all your proverbial ducks in a row, like a pre-approved mortgage and a substantial downpayment that you’ve been saving for years.
So here you sit. Quarantined by the coronavirus outbreak and uncertain how the rest of this year is going to play out, you figure that your big home buy of 2020 is not going to happen. It’s sad, but that’s the reality of things these days, right?
Well, not necessarily! Real estate experts say that now could potentially be the time to buy if you’re careful and have a confident agent guiding you along the way.
Taking video or virtual home tours
The chances are that pretty much ALL open houses have been canceled these days, so it’s not likely that will be something of which you can take advantage. So, you’ll need to schedule appointments to look at individual houses – where possible – or you will need to rely on videos or virtual tours of the homes you wish to seriously consider.
Some of the homes you’re considering may already have videos or virtual tours attached to their listing information. That’s great! Either will provide you with a good look at the home inside and out. Virtual tours are especially helpful as they provide a 3D model of the house and let you “walk” through it at your own pace, stopping to examine the things you need more time to peruse.
This kind of technology is super reliable, and it’s already been used by scores of remote buyers who don’t have the option of checking out potential homes in person.
Another option: If your agent is up for it, he or she may volunteer to visit the home for you and snap photos or take a video of things about which you might have questions. Obviously, you can’t see everything on a video or virtual tour, so having a set of eyes on the property is helpful.
Understand that mortgage rates are unstable
If you haven’t locked in a mortgage rate with a pre-approval – which is sometimes an option – you need to understand that no one quite knows what’s going to happen to mortgage rates during the coronavirus debacle. It could be that they’ll go way down, which is logical since the economy is struggling right now.
But because this is an event like none other and because the market is so unpredictable from day to day, rates could go down, or they could go up. So you’ll likely need to be prepared to act quickly if you see a good window of opportunity to snag a great rate. Or just prepare to be flexible. You never know what the next day, week, or month will bring, though we may have a better idea of what’s happening in the housing market in the coming months than we do now.
Remember, there’s more to buying a house than making an offer, having it accepted, and then going to settlement. There are plenty of things in between that could be affected by quarantining and by the virus in general.
For example, in order to get your mortgage, there needs to be an appraisal completed. Far fewer appraisers are working during the period of time because they simply don’t want to risk going into homes with which they are unfamiliar and where contamination may be present. That could mean a backlog for that industry.
Also, mortgage officers, title company employees, and most other people involved in the buying process are now working from home, and some have been furloughed or laid off. That means fewer man-hours being worked in many of the industries involved in buying a home. The same goes for local municipalities. It may take longer to get permits, certifications, inspections, and anything else required at a county or state level.
Hire a committed realtor
While many real estate agents who don’t rely on home sales and listings for their bread and butter have put aside their real estate careers, for now, many are still committed to their businesses and their customers. Find one that is willing to work with you through this difficult time. One that will likely agree to go above and beyond to make sure this transaction goes smoothly for you.
A committed, calm, and patient agent can mean the difference between a successful transaction during this challenging time and one that you’ll regret somewhere down the road. So, take your time and find one that’s clearly on your side and willing to help you navigate the bumps associated with buying a house during this trying time.