Pros and Cons of Buying a House During COVID-19
When an unexpected natural disaster or state or local emergency interrupts your plans to start house hunting, all is not lost. While opportunities to get preapproved for a mortgage, meet with a real estate agent or tour homes for sale may be on the back burner, there are still ways you can work toward buying your dream home.
Why Making the Move Now May Be Right for You
House hunting during a time when your area or region is shut down can have its benefits. There may be less competition for the houses in the areas where you might be planning to move, and sellers may be more motivated to sell or more flexible on price. Starting your hunt virtually while sheltering in place can be beneficial if you find you have the time to shop online more thoroughly; that extra effort may give you an advantage in finding a home you love within your price range. Once the crisis passes, there may be more house hunters back on the market and prices may escalate due to a more competitive market that benefits sellers rather than buyers, so taking a few steps forward now could be the right move for you.
Get Preapproved for a Mortgage
When you eventually find the home of your dreams, you will want the seller to see you as a serious buyer. To do that, get a mortgage preapproval before you begin house hunting. It may be possible to get preapproved online, so consider looking into that option. Mortgage preapproval is a letter from a lender that indicates how much you are qualified to borrow from the lender, at a specific interest rate.
While it may not be possible to meet with a lender when an emergency situation exists, such as the coronavirus pandemic, you can get your information organized that will help your lender prepare your mortgage preapproval.
- Check your credit reports and get your credit score. Good credit, such as a FICO score of 620 or higher, will qualify you for a conventional mortgage and lower interest rate.
- Gather all the information your lender will need to start the mortgage preapproval process: income information (W-2 statements from the last two years and recent pay stubs); asset information (bank statements and investment account statements); and your personal identification.
Once your lender is available to meet with you in person, you’ll have everything necessary to make the mortgage preapproval process go smoothly.
Use This Time to Research the Market
If you are just beginning to look for a home, take time to research the areas where you want to move, the area’s home values and the average selling prices for the type of home you are interested in purchasing. Familiarize yourself with real estate terms and listing abbreviations so you can easily browse listings and focus on the features that most interest you. Finally, ask friends and family for realtor recommendations and check out their credentials and online reviews. Make a short list of real estate agent candidates to interview once you are able to set up interview times.
Virtual Home Viewing
If you were all set to start house hunting only to be disrupted by a natural disaster, state or regional mandates, or even the COVID-19 pandemic, take heart: You can still view houses on the market right from your own home, whenever it is convenient for you. Many real estate agents post virtual tours of properties for sale on their websites and YouTube. When you take a virtual tour or attend a virtual open house, you can get a realistic view of the property. Then, with a click of the mouse, you can see all the details that are important to you. In addition, by touring homes virtually, you can see many more than would be possible in a single day with your real estate agent.