Before the pandemic, buying a house was a stressful process. An aspiring homeowner has to apply for a loan, go to multiple open houses, talk to real estate agents and inspectors, negotiate final costs, etc. It takes months to buy a home.
With COVID-19 still around and infecting thousands of Americans every day, expect the process to be more difficult.
The current global public health crisis has affected every facet of daily life, including the real estate industry. While mortgages are still being granted and houses are still being sold, changes have been implemented to ensure that everyone involved, including the buyer, is protected from the highly-contagious and deadly illness.
Here are some tips to make buying a house during the pandemic a positive experience.
Shopping for Mortgage, Get a Broker
Individuals who want to take out a loan are encouraged to shop around until they find the best deals available. With COVID-19, experts recommend that borrowers speak to different lenders and check what they can offer.
Right now, mortgage rates are incredibly low, but it is very volatile, too. It might go up or down any day. You would benefit from having someone experienced to guide you through it all.
A mortgage broker does all the legwork. They take care of sorting through dozens of lenders in the market to find a plan that suits you. Often, they also have a list of lenders they regularly work with, ensuring that you only transact with trustworthy businesses.
Moreover, they could get you a better deal you otherwise would not have access to. Some lenders give discounts to brokers for bringing in business.
In applying for a mortgage and buying a house, the help of a broker is invaluable.
Many brokers offer a free initial assessment, so you look around until you find one with whom you will feel comfortable working with. However, before you sit down with a broker for a chat, ask them outright about their fees to be sure. Most brokers earn money from the commission paid by the lender for every new client signed. Otherwise, you might be surprised with a bill by the end of the meeting.
Expect Long Wait Times
You probably heard about low mortgage rates that every prospective and current homeowners are taking advantage of. At below 3% for 30-year, 20-year, and 15-year fixed mortgage (as of Sept. 22), you can save money by taking out a home loan now.
Because the mortgage rates are favorable, many have started applying for a mortgage loan either to buy a house or to refinance their current mortgage. Lenders are busy.
The process before the pandemic usually takes a few weeks to a month, but now, you will need more patience. Lenders are dealing with backlogs, and new applications are still coming.
Moreover, the mortgage industry has been badly battered by COVID-19. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and, therefore, are unable to pay their monthly dues.
It is going to take a bit longer before you can purchase your dream house.
Get a Trusted Real Estate Agent
With COVID-19 still around and spreading, sellers have to be careful. For the protection of everyone involved in the process, in-person viewings have been limited.
As a buyer, you are going to be looking at a real estate property on a screen. Many open houses have turned digital, with sellers relying on Zoom or Facebook Live to stream the tour to interested parties.
That said, it would help to have a real estate agent in your team. A real estate agent has the experience and, therefore, would be able to point out things that you may not notice from photos or videos.
They will also get to visit the property (while social distancing, of course) and make assessments on your behalf. They will save you from being on the ground too much, where you may be exposed to the illness while feeding you the necessary information that will help you decide whether to put up an offer to the seller or keep looking for your dream home.
Get Ready for Intense Bidding Wars
Because of low mortgage rates, buying a house became affordable to more people. However, the supply of homes currently in the market is limited. Add the fact that, because of economic uncertainties, would-be sellers have delayed placing their houses on sale until things return to normal (whenever that might be).
So, once you found a house that you want, do not expect to get it easily. Prices are high because first-time buyers are at full force, offering more money for homes that are on sale. Listings are snapped up as soon as they appear.
Buying a house has always been an exciting but stressful experience, and even more so now that there is a global crisis. The real estate market is going through changes, and it is best to have people who know their way around, to guide you. Moreover, it is best to move fast and have patience so you can get the best deals around.