It’s obvious that shopping for a home will never feel quite the same after the Coronavirus pandemic created uncertainty in the real estate market overnight. But there are still properties on the market, as well as sellers in the pipeline ready to list their properties this summer.
Your local real estate market is adjusting, and adjustments take time. The following tips paint a picture of what any homebuyer — whether first-timer or not — should be aware of as you enter an arena that’s adapting to fast changes. Combined with a nimble and spirited attitude and perspective, these nuggets will prepare you for the rest of 2020:
It’s all about seller inventory — and when, when, when. There’s a host of factors impacting the supply of homes versus demand right now. COVID-19 had made some would-be sellers hesitant, and they have put off their plans (the bad news). In the same token, the pandemic has carved out a group of would-be buyers who are also postponing (the good news). You may have better luck by adjusting your target price either up or down since price tiers in certain areas, whether higher or lower, have experienced less buyer interest and opened the door to others still in the game.
Also keep in mind that some urbanites who were planning on downsizing or upsizing may choose to move farther out of the city for the same reason that suburbanites might look toward the quasi-rural areas: the pandemic has changed their long-term perspective of how many people they want to live around.
Don’t forget the “when.” When postponed sellers get more comfortable as COVID-19 fears start to plateau, many will be ready to list. Several may follow this lead all at once this summer. The question is when — June? July? August? Be prepared for the possibility of a mini-spike in inventory in the near future when everyone’s social-distancing comfort levels are a little higher than today.
Plan for a more virtual experience. With different states adjusting their “reopening” phases of industry and commerce, it will continue affecting how buyers look at homes due to the temporary emergency policies mandated on real estate. Even with some limitations lifted, sellers and their agents may have their own personal, self-imposed rules.
Prepare yourself to see some homes virtually, perhaps with your computer’s video camera conferencing tool if your agent is the only person allowed in the house. Have your agent take copious notes, give as much description as possible, and spend lots of time communicating all the home’s features — big and small. A video-chat app on your phone, whether “live” or recorded, could make all the difference. Many are free options such as FaceTime, Google Duo, Marco Polo, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Houseparty.
If you’re allowed in a house on the condition of following COVID-19 rules, follow them! Some tours, whether the seller’s agent is there or not, will require gloves and masks, maybe even a temperature check or illness-symptom check and other strict policies. You might be prohibited from touching surfaces, standing too close to each other, or even prohibited on the number of individuals allowed inside. You may notice doorknobs, handles, and other areas are wiped down with disinfectant as you are leaving, whether the seller’s agent or your agent.
The escrow process could be markedly different for the foreseeable future. Whether this dynamic change lasts in part or whole, real estate professionals and title/escrow officers are adapting quickly.
A seller may offer longer closing times such as 45 or 60 days — perhaps a favorable option for both the buyer and seller given the escrow and title processing delays some transactions are experiencing due to staff shortages.
Another possible area not to be surprised about are pandemic legal clauses. A buyer or seller may want certain clauses or addendums signed in the contract stating that unforeseeable events on either side due to COVID-19 could alter the course of the transaction, whether a considerable delay or other circumstance. One key area might be protecting a first-time buyer’s deposit, or an existing homeowner/buyer in the case of contingency (aka: I can only buy your house when mine is sold, and COVID-19 could mess things up).
Finally, other areas to brace for include: solo inspections (the home inspector is alone and uses technology to communicate in real-time); “drive by” and/or digital home appraisals; and a contactless escrow closing where final paperwork is signed remotely.
Overall, stay up to date on local and state COVID-19 regulations, and consider the “new normal” of homebuying to be fluid. People may be spending a bit more time at home for the foreseeable future. Do you want a multi-generational house to consolidate family resources? Should you hold out and look for a new home with interesting time-at-home features from a developer next year? Do you want an at-home office available anytime of the year just in case? What about more entertainment space and features if the pandemic sees a spike in cases in the future? Space for a third-car driveway spot? Space for renovations or improvements? A bigger backyard or porch?
Although there are a lot of unknowns, real estate and lending professionals have swung into action to help buyers get through the process. Your credit union is here to help as you start your journey.