House hunting in the times of Covid-19 is a force to be reckoned with. The virus has affected all corners of the world and the real estate market has not been spared.
Yes, the market is still alive and running, but it will take extra planning and patience on the buyer’s behalf. So much so, in fact, that if it’s possible for you to wait out this pandemic (however long it may take) more opportunities and less stress will be waiting for you on the other side.
But we know that not everyone has the luxury to wait. If you’re a homeseeker in urgent need, keep in mind the following pointers so you can best prepare yourself for your house hunting process in these unprecedented times.
1. Finding a Trusted Real Estate Agent
This step is a two-fold problem to overcome.
First of all, it’s more important than ever to find a real estate agent you can trust. This is because it’s now common for real estate agents to tour a home in your place (for obvious safety rules and restrictions). Photos and virtual viewings alone won’t give you a real grasp on the house and its potential problems. Without a tangible tour of your own, you’ll be left in the dark and depending on the word of your agent.
This leads to the second problem- finding a trustworthy real estate agent to help you buy a home in the pandemic. If you lack personal connections, you’ll have to resort to searching online. Of course there’s a huge market of honest, reliable agents- but it will be more challenging to judge their character and the chemistry between you two through virtual and telecommunications. Meeting in person can be possible but risky and most likely delayed.
2.Virtual Viewings are Subpar at Best
Virtual viewings offer you a more well-rounded perspective of the house than by photos alone. You can do these tours on your own time or by actually attending an open house– virtually, of course.
But the risk in these viewings is that you’ll never get a full view of the house, and camera angles can be set up to manipulate the room to seem larger or brighter than it really is. Sellers could also choose to hide problem spots completely out of view of the camera.
In addition, you won’t be able to feel around and test the mechanics of the house, which is generally important when purchasing a remodeled home or even a new one.
But most important of all, you just may miss the feeling and vibe of the structure. Seeing anything on a screen, be it a home or the Grand Canyon, will not give you the full-scale effect of the place. So if you’re house hunting during Covid-19 on virtual tours alone, make your choice with caution.
3.Scheduled In-Person Viewing Appointments are Far and Few
Buying a home anytime, let alone in a pandemic, is a huge deal. If you are set on seeing the home for yourself before making this life-changing decision, in some cases it is possible. But be prepared for lengthy wait times as they can only let a few people in at any given time.
If you decide to tour a home yourself, you’ll have to present a Covid-19 liability release waiver as well as sign documents upon arrival stating you do not have any symptoms. It goes without saying that gloves and masks are also mandatory.
4. Stricter Mortgage Rules Make Pre-Approval a Must
This is more for your own protection and peace of mind than anything else. The bottom line is, in the times of Covid-19, banks and lenders know people are struggling with income. To keep themselves safe they’re asking for higher down payments, higher credit scores, and are cracking down on background checks.
So if you didn’t already have the utmost qualifications, you may not get approved for a mortgage to purchase a home during this pandemic. Pre-approving your mortgage is crucial to knowing which houses you can actually afford.
Not to mention, of course, the challenges of contacting and meeting with banks and lenders amidst the crisis.
5. Understand it’s a Seller’s Market- and That Means Competition
One surprise in the real estate market is that sellers have the upper hand. There are few houses being sold but many interested buyers during this pandemic. For you, this results in bidding wars with a low chance of negotiation. And, of course, the pressure to make a fast decision before another interested shopper snags it first.
It’s not impossible to buy a home during the Covid-19 pandemic, though it certainly presents more challenges. If you absolutely need to move make sure you take note of the above tips. Be realistic about what’s in your price range so you won’t be outbidded. And handle your mortgage first and foremost! Best of luck.