This Is What You Must Know...
In the best of times, shopping for a house is a complicated and involved process—a big-ticket proposition involving lots of shopping around and meeting a ton of people so you're 100% sure you've picked the right place, at the right price. But, of course, these are not the best of times.
Now that the coronavirus pandemic has people across the country hunkering down at home to lower their exposure levels, even the most determined home buyer might be wondering: Is it safe to shop for a house right now?
While risk is a personal decision, the real estate industry is adapting to provide ways to go about home buying safely during the coronavirus pandemic. You can now do many things at a safe social distance, or even remotely, when it comes to buying a home that you may not have considered doing in the past.
Here are all the ways in-person checkpoints to buying a home have changed to keep you safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
Finding the right real estate agent
When it comes to buying a home, pairing up with the right agent is always key to finding your perfect property. But today, you need one who is tech-savvy and comfortable conducting meetings and business online.
Zoom, FaceTime, House Party, and other tools allow us to have consultations you would normally have in person with us from the comfort of your home. We offer virtual consultations, as well as home tours. We can also assist you with e-signature apps so you can send and receive documents to sign digitally through email.
Virtual home tours
Crowded open houses with a plate of cookies for everyone to grab are a thing of the past—at least for now. Instead, you've got virtual open houses and video tours.
There are several ways to virtually tour a home. Along with photos, many listings were already starting to incorporate videos or virtual reality tours. You'll be able to tour the home, room by room, without physically stepping onto the property.
The power of video cannot be underestimated during these unprecedented times.
However, these videos are filmed and edited, so you may not be able to see every nook and cranny. If you want to do a deeper dive, we will accommodate you.
We can arrange for a FaceTime tour of the home. This will provide you with a personalized experience without having to leave your home.
Granted, we're not necessarily saying you should buy a house without seeing it in person, unless there's no choice in the matter. Nonetheless, it's smart to do what you can remotely to whittle down your options so you can choose what's worth an in-person visit, now or later.
Also keep in mind that in late March, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared residential real estate sales an "essential service," although certain state officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have explicitly forbidden home showings. And even if they are allowed, agents, home sellers, and buyers must all be willing to make them happen.
Remote mortgage pre-approval
Some lenders had already made the entire mortgage process digital long before social distancing was needed. And now, many more have jumped on board out of necessity.
The first step is to interview a few loan officers over the phone or by video chat. Since mortgage interest rates are all over the map these days, it's extremely important to shop around and compare what they're offering—and make sure they're comfortable conducting all steps of the transaction online.
Ideally you want a lender that allows you to track your loan progress, view educational resources, and stay in touch, all without leaving the house.
In order to get pre-approved for a loan, the lender will need to review your income, debt, credit history, and other factors—and you'll need to submit paperwork verifying all of the above.
Luckily, most of this paperwork should be available online, such as pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements. If you're unsure how to access them, a tech-savvy lender should be able to help. (Here's more on the paperwork needed for mortgage pre-approval, and why getting pre-approved matters.)
Check out our Partners Page to find some of the lenders we recommend. They will help you get pre-approved and help to figure out how much home you can afford.
Remote home inspections
At a remote home inspection, inspectors take a lot more pictures than they might have in the past so clients can get a good idea of where the issues are.
Some inspectors will also take videos if the issue is something moving that shouldn't, such as a loose handrail or wobbly toilet. While they are in the house, they use masks and gloves, and take every precaution to keep everyone safe.
Once the report is completed, it will be emailed to the clients, with pictures and descriptions of everything they inspected, along with PDFs of background information about why inspectors test what they do.
Virtual home appraisals
Home appraisals required by a lender generally include a site visit, which is not possible in some parts of the country. Luckily, appraisals pertain only to those getting loans, so cash buyers can skip this process entirely. But if you are getting a mortgage, fear not.
In the last few weeks, we've seen appraisers revising the way they work also, to stay safe. From virtual appraisals, to "desktop appraisals", when possible. All across the industry, changes are being implemented, so the loan process can move forward.
Remote home closings
In-person home closings—where all parties come together to sign contracts, swap keys, and shake hands—are, for the most part, not happening right now (especially the shaking hands part). However, most closings require some face-to-face interaction, since people have to sign documents and notaries need to stamp them in person.
So while home buyers will probably have to show up on closing day, it will look far different from the past.
At our most recent closings, the Realtors have waited outside in their car, and only the Attorney, buyers and title company were present.
We are even seeing a move toward complete virtual closings. Funds can be wire transfered, some title companies and lenders are approving electronic signatures and we have begun to see electronic notaries.
OK....So How do you get your Dream Home?
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