So you want to buy or sell a house, but, well . . . coronavirus. This pandemic has probably kept you from doing a lot of things you want to do: You can’t go to the movies, you can’t go to the gym, you can’t watch any sports (besides marble racing)—you can’t even hug your mom!
If you’ve already got all your ducks in a row and don’t want to put your housing goals on hold for another year, all those restrictions might have you asking, Can I buy or sell a house during the coronavirus?
The quick answer is yes. In April 2020, there were over 4 million home sales across the country!1 So did those home buyers and sellers experience any challenges you should prepare for?
We’ll walk you through what to expect when buying or selling a house during the coronavirus.
Buying or Selling a House This Year
Okay, we already know millions of homes closed in the past few months despite the pandemic. But when you’re ready to throw your own hat into the ring, will you be able to close? Let’s see how buyers and sellers are behaving now.
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In May, more than a quarter of buyers and a third of sellers continued to buy and sell homes during the coronavirus. Still, the virus is delaying what’s usually the hottest season for real estate. In fact, 64% of home buyers and 48% of sellers decided to stop the process due to the coronavirus’ impact—for at least a couple of months.2
So, while the coronavirus has many home buyers and sellers putting things on hold, home closings are still happening and the housing market forecast seems to point toward a reasonable rebound once the virus goes bye-bye.
Takeaway: If you’re determined to buy or sell a home this year, there’s still a good chance you can make it happen.
Home Prices During COVID-19
Let’s get right down to it. While most home buyers expected home prices to drop in the wake of the coronavirus, that hasn’t been the case—at least for now.
In fact, as of May 2020, the national median home price actually went up just a tad to $330,000.3 And a majority of sellers (72%) haven’t felt a need to lower their listing price to attract new buyers.4
So, whether you’re buying or selling, it seems like prices are holding steady. But there’s still a chance your situation will be different than the norm. That’s why it’s so important to know how to find a real estate agent who has experienced the ups and downs of market changes so you can get the best deal whether you’re buying or selling.
Getting a Mortgage in 2020
The good news for home buyers right now is mortgages are being offered at rock bottom interest rates. For example, the average interest rate of a 15-year fixed-rate conventional loan in May was at 2.69%—the lowest it’s been in seven years!5
But keep in mind, dozens of factors go into how a lender decides what interest rate you qualify for—there are no guarantees. Some lenders have raised their down payment and job history requirements. That’s why you might’ve heard how some buyers are pulling teeth just to get approved. Lenders are being extra careful right now to avoid taking on too much risk.
In May, some real estate agents found that extra caution among lenders to provide financing caused a delay in home closings, while 22% said their buyers no longer qualified for a mortgage because of a job loss.6 That’s right, some lenders are regularly requesting proof of a buyer’s job security as late as one day before closing so they can cancel financing if the risk is too high.
Don’t let a stricter lending requirement get you down—it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, you might want to buy a house ASAP, but if your job and income aren’t stable, you still have debt, or you don’t have a down payment of at least 10–20%, buying a house isn’t a good idea—coronavirus or not.
If you want to get a smart mortgage that helps you pay off your home fast, talk to our friends at Churchill Mortgage about a 15-year fixed-rate conventional loan—the cheapest type of mortgage and the only kind we recommend.
Viewing a Home During Coronavirus
Forcing us to wave to grandparents from behind a window isn’t the only way social distancing has interrupted our lives. It’s also added some new challenges to buying and selling a home.
In fact, 1 out of 5 real estate agents said social distancing is making home buying and selling nearly impossible or it’s postponing deals from getting done. But most agents said wearing masks and gloves or doing remote deals is working just fine.7
Again, your situation might be different. But if you’re determined to buy or sell right now, there are ways to close the deal while still respecting social distancing efforts. Here are some tips:
Most agents said home sellers have made changes to how people interact with their home—including stopping open houses, doing virtual showings, or requiring buyers, home inspectors, and appraisers to pretty much put on a hazmat suit before entering.8
Then again, a handful of agents said sellers haven’t made any changes to how people interact with their homes, despite the coronavirus.9 So your experience will really depend on what you’re comfortable with and where you live.
As a buyer, there’s a chance your only option to view inside a house is to do a virtual showing. Watching a video tour has become a popular way to work around social distancing efforts during home deals. And with easier access to video technology, this pandemic might just make virtual showings the new norm as a no-hassle resource for buyers searching for a home they love.
As you get ready to make an offer on the perfect house, you might also come across a COVID-19 addendum. In response to the crisis, some home deals include addendums that allow the buyer and seller to extend the closing process or cancel the contract if issues related to the coronavirus make it impossible or unlikely to close. No harm, no foul.
When it’s time to close the deal, don’t be surprised to find yourself doing a “drive-by closing” where you pull up to the curbside of a title company’s office as if you were ordering takeout. A legal professional will probably come out to you decked in a mask and gloves to drop off a mountain of paperwork for you to sign in your car for a few hours. Again, this may be different depending on where you live.
Crush Your Housing Goals With an Expert
Now that you know what to expect while buying or selling a house during the coronavirus, work with someone who really knows what they’re doing in this crazy time—an expert real estate agent. Never settle for a novice—especially now, when the stakes are so high. You need someone who lives and breathes real estate—someone at the top of their game who can get the job done and negotiate on your behalf.
For a quick and easy way to find a top-ranking agent near you, try our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program. We only recommend agents who are at the top of their market.