For almost all of the spring homebuying season, the real estate world has been rocked by ever changing guidelines and procedures due to COVID-19. As some states deemed real estate non-essential and federal guidelines tightened, buyers are experiencing a new landscape in real estate. As Americans slowly transition to the new normal, buying a home in a future that’s post-coronavirus may look a little different. Knowing what changes have occurred during COVID-19, as well as what questions to ask, is going a vital part of navigating the real estate world in the future.
How Can I Tour the Property I Want?
One of the most obvious– and fastest– changes during the pandemic crisis was how buyers could safely enter the homes for sale. In most cases, this has been an individual brokerage decision, as well catering to the comfort level of sellers. However, there have been some general guidelines in place, as well as new alternative options, that allow buyers to continue their home search.
- Masks worn by all individuals viewing the home
- Requests for individuals that have travelled out-of-state to refrain from viewing in person
- Shoe “booties” provided to buyers as they tour the property
- Online virtual tours, like those available on Homes.com, which allow buyers to view the property from the comfort of their own home
- 360 degree walking tours
- Zoom tours with a Realtor. Many agents are offering this service to reduce the number of individuals in a property while also allowing people to view the home
In a world post-coronavirus, or at least, post the social distancing guidelines, these safety recommendations may still be in the future of homebuying and selling. People will likely want to stay protected from outside germs, so having extra precautions in place will be around longer than you might think.
Is My Down Payment Assistance Program Still Available?
Many first time homebuyers have relied on down payment assistance programs to purchase a home without having to pay 20% down; however, once COVID-19 hit and unemployment increased, many of the programs were suspended. It is important to note that not all down payment assistance programs were suspended and in the near future as guidelines loosen, many programs, if not all, will resume. If you as a buyer are relying on a DPA program to purchase your home in a post-pandemic world, it’s important to ask the following questions:
- Will I still get a rate lock on my interest rate?
- How will this impact the homebuyer education course that may be required?
- Will there be a delay in processing my loan?
- How often will I have to submit employment verification?
- Has the credit score requirement changed?
Am I Still Approved For My Loan?
Since COVID-19, many lenders have tightened the requirements on loans. For many, they have increased down payment requirements and credit score requirements. In addition, many lenders are doing more employment verification checks throughout the loan process. Buyers may experience a delay in loan approval as processing times have increased, and as we continue to see the requirements loosen up in a post-coronavirus world, loan officers might become busier than before. These are some things to keep in mind about loan approval post-COVID-19 to prevent your approval from being dragged out longer than you want. Ask your broker these questions:
- What do you need to verify my employment?
- Is there a new minimum credit score requirement?
- Will I be able to put less than 20% down? If not, what are my options?
How Will The Closing Process Work?
As attorneys and title companies work to close transactions during COVID-19, many are taking extra precautions to effectively protect themselves, and the public, while still conducting business. Each title company and attorney may have varying precautions, and many are even offering alternative closing options. It’s likely that as we continue to move forward with loosening up the restrictions of social distancing, many of these companies will be continuing to exercise precautionary steps. Here are some options you may be seeing come with us in the future:
- Curbside closings to offer minimal contact
- Electronic wire funding providing a touch-free funding option
- Personal protective equipment required at in-person closings such as masks and gloves
What If I Was In The Process Of Buying But I’m Furloughed?
An unfortunate effect of COVID-19 is that many previously qualified buyers were furloughed or laid off due to no fault of their own. Unfortunately, while lenders may sympathize with the situation, most will not approve a home loan to an unpaid furloughed employee. Since this is uncharted territory even for lenders, requirements may differ. It’s important to ask the right questions if you’re currently furloughed, or expect to be out of work in the future, but are still wanting to buy a home:
- How will my furlough affect my loan approval?
- Will my time of employment have to start all over again once I’m not furloughed?
As we all adjust to a new normal, even in real estate, what has been business-as-usual may look differently. Buyers may experience more delays and hurdles in the process, but it is still possible to buy a home during and post-COVID-19. To begin your home search, download the free Homes.com app or search online!