House hunting on top of the numerous other responsibilities being thrown your way during this global crisis can feel like an unmanageable task. While the internet has made it easy to browse through available homes online in your free time, the process itself is much more complicated than simply perusing what might be for sale.
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If you’re skeptical as you review your current options and move further along in the buying process, there are still plenty of ways to tackle house hunting while you’re stuck inside.
Know Your Area
The first step to understanding your options during this time is to know your area. There are numerous different state and countywide orders to consider as you navigate the housing market. While some areas are being asked to voluntarily shelter-in-place, other areas have also mandated that only essential businesses remain open.
In some states, real estate offices have been deemed essential while in others these places of work have been completely shut down. Since most offices have the capabilities to continue their work remotely, you should still be able to call and connect with a local realtor if you’re ready to get the ball rolling.
Take an education course
While your digital resources are only growing in number, you can also make use of online homebuyer education courses to help alleviate any stress you have about the process. Though not always required, such courses allow you to get the knowledge you need to be successful, and may even offer some perks if you’re wondering how you could possibly afford a home during this time.
Try Digital Conferencing
As social distancing continues to be recommended across the globe, digital conferencing is becoming crucial for businesses to survive. Though the local offices of both mortgage brokers and realtors are likely closed, you can still set up digital conferencing or phone calls to discuss your home buying needs.
Before you set up a call, have all the information and paperwork you may need to discuss on hand, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. Most agencies are ready and willing to set up a video conference that fits your schedule, so don’t be afraid to inquire about setting up a time that works for you.
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan that fits your needs is something that most people do remotely regardless of the current state of the world. Though it may feel a bit daunting if you have never gone through the process before, pre-approval itself is actually quite simple.
Discuss any recommendations your realtor may have when it comes to mortgage brokers and don’t always go with the first approval you receive. Most of your approval options will end up being quite similar, but it’s still important to cover all of your bases.
Browse Online Portals
Once you’ve been pre-approved, you’ll have access to your realtor’s online portal, allowing you to view all of the homes that actually fit your needs. Since most, if not all, of the home buying process, will be conducted online due to the current crisis, be sure to stay diligent when it comes to checking additional new homes for sale. Stay up to date with the online portal, and keep in constant contact with your realtor to discuss what you’re interested in.
Utilize Virtual Tours
Virtual touring is becoming increasingly popular during this time. From the use of 360-degree cameras to simply FaceTiming your realtor to do a virtual walkthrough, be sure to ask about what options there are to tour places remotely.
Have a Financial Plan
Having a financial plan in place as you navigate the purchase of a home is vital to your overall success. The timing of a move might not always align in the easiest of ways, so try to have back up funding when plans fall through. For example, some homeowners have found that the timing of their move overlaps with the ending of their lease, requiring a short period of time where they may have to pay both their rent and their mortgage. If this ends up being the case, having an umbrella of emergency cash is an easy way to cover for such expenses. However, during this time, building up extra funding may be more difficult than usual.
Whether you have a current mortgage payment or you’re paying rent, don’t hesitate to ask about forbearance options or to budget your upcoming stimulus check.
As you determine the right loan option for you, ask your mortgage lender to give you a breakdown of your choices. Most first time homebuyers research FHA loan information, as these loans tend to give them the best rates. However, there are other choices apart from such loans that suit the needs of both first-time buyers, and current homeowners who are looking to move.
From conventional loans to conforming vs. non conforming, ask about every option that could work for you and compare the pros and cons of each.
Lastly, never stop asking questions. Since this period of crisis is uncharted territory for everyone, don’t shy away from expressing your concerns, fears, and queries. Discuss what your realtor recommends for you in terms of a timeline, and putting in an offer remotely. Though closing remotely on a new home has been done before, your realtor might be hesitant to suggest this for you based on their past experiences amidst the current crisis.
Ask them about their experience working with other buyers who may have purchased a home without walking through it, and inquire about any roadblocks that came up. Other helpful questions to consider asking include:
How competitive is the current market?
It’s important to have a clear understanding of just how competitive the current market is, even despite these difficult times. Ask your realtor about their thoughts on the likelihood of you closing quickly on a house given the state of the market. Staying realistic will save you disappointment, in the long run, should you run into getting outbid on a home.
Will interest rates remain low?
For many current home buyers, the desire to buy was sparked in part by the desirably low-interest rates in February 2020. While we saw an unexpected uptick in the rates during the month of March, they appear to be stabilizing at this time.
Is it better to wait things out?
This is a question you may have had in the back of your mind for quite some time. While there is no definitive answer, it really comes down to your own circumstances. Purchasing a home for the first time or selling your current home and moving is stressful enough without taking into account the on-going global pandemic crisis. However, if you are in dire need of a new home in the coming months, it’s nice to know it is still possible to make a move.
Will seller prices drop during this time?
Though this question may be more based on your area than any other factor, it is likely that the prices of homes on the market will remain the same. The number of listings has been consistently lower than the current demand for homes, meaning most sellers will choose to wait out the crisis at hand instead of lowering their prices.
Because of other numerous questions you may have at this time, it’s important to do your own research and stay up to date on the current market. Most homeowners know when the time is right for them, and it may just be that that time is now.
As you consider all of your options when looking at the housing market during this crisis, keep in mind you don’t need to do everything at once. It may end up being in your best interest to get pre-approved and browse for the time being. However, you choose to navigate the process, be sure to utilize any and all tools at your disposal, and don’t rush it. Work closely with your realtor to determine what is best for you as you look to the future during these uncertain times.