Buying a Home During a Pandemic
You’ve sheltered in place during the worst of the pandemic, and are now looking beyond your current front door to find your next home. It may be that you’re moving because you have a new job, your household is expanding or shrinking, or you can now work (more) remotely. Interest rates are low, and now is the time to look!
Finding a home has gotten a bit more complicated. More than ever, online searches are helpful, and we’ve heard stories about folks buying homes without actually visiting them. Remember that online home pictures are a marketing and sales presentation, and won’t be showcasing the homes’ negatives, so you need to visit, if only virtually, the home. If you can’t actually visit your prospective new homes, your realtor or the listing realtor can likely do a distanced video tour. Make sure you get a sense of the street and the neighborhood too.
If you can physically visit, travel separately from the realtor if you can. A car is a form of PPE, and will help you keep distance. Be prepared with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Most homes will ask you to put booties (usually provided by the seller or their realtor) over your shoes or remove your shoes. If you’re removing your shoes, please bring socks! No homeowner wants to even think about your bare feet on their floors.
In some places, you may be asked to sign a COVID19 waiver contract stating that if you catch the virus, you won’t be suing the sellers as they aren’t responsible. Additionally, a few home sellers are also asking for contracts where you guarantee that you will be wearing masks and gloves.
Though interest rates are low, mortgage lenders are being very careful. With some homeowners unable to make monthly payments, loan defaults are likely to rise, and these are on loans which easily passed pre-pandemic criteria. So get pre-approved, and be prepared for more questions and proof. If you want a bigger loan and are moving into jumbo loan territory, you’ll need a larger down payment, perhaps as much as 30%, as loan providers are trying to minimize their risk. Ahead of your search, do your homework on the loan and get pre-approved. Unless you’re flush with cash, there’s no point in going to see and falling in love with a home where your finances won’t work.
Once you’ve found your dream home and arrived at a contract, be prepared for your closing to be more electronic, virtual and even drive-through than ever before. There’s a rising tide of refinancing in addition to home buying, so the volume is high and the processes are being revised to accommodate our new normal.
Stay safe, wear your mask and gloves, and best of luck finding your dream home!