For many first-time home buyers last year, the process looked a little different than how they may have imagined. Open houses became video calls, realtors donned face masks, and settlement papers arrived in a contact-less delivery package to doorsteps. COVID-19 has changed the face of the real estate industry, but it has done little to curb the appetite of many Americans looking for that extra bedroom to convert to a remote workspace or families who suddenly need outdoor space to escape to in between virtual learning breaks.
But if you’ve been safely sheltered in place, you may be wondering: what does buying a home look like during a pandemic?
The answer (drawing from both personal experience and that of our clients) is that it now looks different for everyone. Our first experience shopping for a home was atypical, to say the least. But that also meant it was uniquely educational. Early on, many tried to encourage us to look on the bright side – with mortgage rates dropping to record lows, one can be easily misled into thinking now is the time to get the deal of the century! However, it proved key to keep expectations reasonable and offers competitive as buyers flooded the market at an inopportune time. With homes in short supply, properties have sold in as little as 24 hours in desirable areas.
A true advantage comes with being flexible and adaptable in this new market – with limited home showings to enforce social distancing rules, buyers who are comfortable viewing homes over Facetime and acting off photos and videos provided by agents can navigate more quickly to win the contract. This often means placing an offer sight unseen! However, as the world around us has changed, many listing agents are now providing more detailed information than ever before, including floor plans with spatial measurements and alternate day and nighttime photos to give potential purchasers a fuller picture. Walkthrough style videos where the camera is held close to eye-level are particularly helpful, as photos are often taken at special angles with carefully staged lighting.
Shopping during the pandemic also revealed every buyer’s nightmare: the ultimate seller’s market. When it came to submitting offers, it paid off to make sacrifices. In a tight market with low inventory, buyers are now being advised against requesting additional contingencies. That being said, a good real estate agent and mortgage banker will never advise you to put in an offer that doesn’t ultimately serve your best interests.
My personal story ended with success. We closed on the home of our dreams in mid-April. The process taught me that shopping for a home may always be complicated, but the experience can be made far easier (and faster!) by enlisting a prepared and qualified team. Today’s historically low mortgage rates are expected to remain low; but they won’t be this low for much longer. Prospective homebuyers should also act soon as we enter the new year, as Bankrate explained: “If you’re looking to buy a home… expect mortgage rates to remain low into 2021. However, the possibility of rates falling to 2.5 percent or lower has faded as the U.S. economy has rebounded.”
Presented by Nicolette Davicino