Homeownership is one of those things that many of us dream of, but are never quite able to pull the trigger on. Whether it is saving up enough money to beat out other home buyers in competitive neighborhoods or never being quite sure we’ll stay in one location long enough to make the investment worth it, there always seems to be a reason not to buy. Right now, that big reason is the COVID-19 pandemic.
Searching for and making your first home purchase is a challenging affair, one that typically involves a lot of research and learning the ropes of home markets. COVID-19 has taken a game that many of us struggle to learn the rules of and made it level-up. For many, it may just seem easier to hold off until this whole thing is over.
However, for those of us who are committed to buying a home soon, there is nothing to do but dive into the new reality and make the most of it. Though there are certainly challenges, there are things you can do to make your home buying experience better. Even in the face of a global pandemic.
Research and Plan
Many first time homeowners will tell you that the experience wasn’t nearly as difficult on the inside as it looks from the outside as long as you stick to your ground rules. Even during the pandemic, prepared shoppers have been able to come out on top and land their dream homes. For example, Olivia Bernard managed to not only find her dream home but ended up getting a real deal on it because of her preparedness during the first stages of the pandemic.
But what exactly goes into all this planning?
First and foremost is to get yourself approved for a home loan. This involves a few steps including finding a lender you like and trust as well as submitting the necessary documents to get the ball rolling and get a preapproval. You may find that you’re not qualifying for home loans — this is important information to have and can help you get back on track to qualify for a future home purchase.
Another thing to spend time doing is researching the market. Examine where you really want to put down roots. Consider things such as:
- Is this neighborhood close to my job?
- Can I still easily visit friends and family?
- Are the schools high quality?
- Is the neighborhood safe?
- How big of a home do I really want?
- Are there any special things such as a fenced yard or a basement that are must-haves?
- Do I have the skills and finances to do certain home repairs?
Having an answer to these types of questions will help you narrow your search area and ultimately find something that makes you happy for a long time.
Once you have a real idea of what you’re looking for and what your actual budget is it is time to start looking for the perfect home. You may have to compete with lots of millennials, but don’t be in a huge rush to purchase something just because you can. Making snap decisions on a home is the most certain way to wind up in something that is outside of your price range, has expensive fixes you didn’t see coming, or realize that you made a huge mistake.
During the age of COVID-19, you may find that you can’t be as physically present as you want during your search. For instance, some realtors are only doing virtual tours of homes on the market and some inspectors are getting using similar homes to make assessments. Don’t be afraid to walk away from something if it doesn’t feel right to you — it will all work out in the end.
There are many opinions out there about whether the pandemic is better for buyers or not. On one hand, interest rates are far lower than they have been in a long time and home purchasers may be able to lock in a killer deal. However, fewer homes are going up on the market and prices for some are rocketing, which could make it harder to recoup your investment in the long-term.
Pull the Trigger!
When you think you’ve finally found the perfect home, there are still things to consider before pulling the trigger on it. Some experts believe that in this economic downturn it is valuable to initiate a 30-30-3 rule in your home buying. That is either making sure the mortgage doesn’t exceed 30% of your income, being able to put down 30% of the home’s value, or not allowing the home price to be greater than 3 times your annual gross income.
In taking the final step you should also consider your power in negotiating for your home. Negotiations are a normal and important part of buying a home and you shouldn’t give up the option just because of COVID. Think about things you’d like to negotiate for and follow some general guidelines on playing the cards to your advantage.
If you have found the right house and everything is lining up then congratulations are in order! Pull the trigger and once you’re moved in, have a COVID-friendly celebration! Can anyone pass up a virtual tour and cocktails with your closest friends? Good luck out there!