By Jason & Kelli Krafsky

The public health nightmare has not dashed the American Dream to buy and own a home. But the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will likely delay a lot of home buyers from being able to unlock the front door to their new place.

Before COVID-19 entered the American psyche, the housing market was already heating up in some areas where more home buyers willing, ready, and able to purchase a home then there were houses on the market. The typical Spring market excitement had hit a month or two early.

The faint warnings of a new infectious virus affecting China quickly turned into resounding declarations of states of emergency in numerous countries. Suddenly, businesses, schools, and houses of worship shuttered their buildings and the calls for people in some areas to stay home moved from safe suggestions to mandated orders. Due to this, some home buyers have been forced to set their dreams aside due to losing their job, their job security, or their stock investment wealth. Others are still trying to persevere through these challenging times to buy a home. And in all likelihood, the new era of social distancing, self-quarantines, and working or schooling from home has many reevaluating their current housing scenario. Meaning more are starting to take steps to buying a new place in the near future.

While homes in many markets are still being bought and sold during the pandemic, a number of significant changes have impacted how the housing market operates. Whether a state or county is under stay-at-home orders, in a declared a state of emergency, or has ordered residents to shelter-in-place, the pandemic is causing home buyers to significantly adjust their expectations, attitudes, and home search efforts. Here’s five pieces of advice for home buyers in the midst of a pandemic.

(NOTE: On 3/26/20, Washington’s Governor ordered stay-at-home orders for at least two weeks prohibiting non-essential services from conducting business, including real estate services. On 3/28/20, Governor Inslee modified the orders to allow limited real estate services allowing showings by appointment, limiting two people to view home at a time, and following all social distancing guidelines. Other state’s have similar directives to their citizens. These tips apply to listings in areas that do not have stay-at-home orders from their local government or allow limited real estate services.)

#1) Be Patient and Flexible with Changing Conditions –

The entire real estate apparatus is adapting to the public health crisis. Real estate brokerages, title and escrow offices, bank and mortgage lenders, and everyone else involved are having to alter their practices to comply with the changing mandates from the government. Many agents, brokers, and other personnel are working remotely from home, which slows down normal processes and creates an added level of confusion. Active and prospective home buyers will need to tap into a special reservoir of personal patience and flexibility during this time. While much of what is happening is temporary, no one knows for sure how long “temporary” will be.

And for those who want to buy a new home, but need to sell their existing home first,  our article “Home Selling Advice During the COVID-19 Pandemic” gives new and practical ways to sell a home during this public health crisis.

#2) Be Vigilant to Protect Yourself and Others –

Social distancing, self-quarantines, hand washing, disinfectant wipes, and, for whatever reason, hoarding toilet paper are our current new reality. As states and communities shift between states of emergency to shelter-in-place orders to stay-at-home orders, we all need to do our part to protect everyone. If you view a home in a private showing or Open House, wear gloves and protective masks, use disinfectant wipes on knobs or handles you touch, and avoid touching flat surfaces. Don’t use the bathroom in the home. If possible, avoid taking small children, unhealthy individuals, and elderly adults to view a home. And by all means, if you are sick or could be at risk of carrying COVID-19 or any other virus…DON’T GO TO VIEW A HOME!

#3) Be Pickier with What You Want in a Home –

If you are self-quarantining, you likely have more time than you know what to do with. Take some time away from sharing memes on social media or viewing TikToks and think through what you really want in a future home. We developed a free tool to help home buyers figure out their top needs, wants, desires, and nots in a home. Nailing down what’s most important to you in a home prepares you to make a better home purchasing decision. It also forces you to be pickier with homes you view online.

Look beyond the sparkly, staged pictures that look like a home magazine photo shoot and dig deeper into the details of the home and the neighborhood. Use satellite views to scope out what surrounds the property and neighborhood. If you find a home that checks all of the boxes on your list, ask your agent to acquire additional information about the property. This may include a preliminary title report, seller disclosure form, HOA docs, detailed info on features and updates, and so on. Having more time to research homes is a good thing. Make the most of it!

#4) Be Open & Honest with Everyone Involved –

Real estate market conditions, listings, and sales are in a state of flux. The mortgage industry is experiencing extraordinary movements and activity daily. Even without these factors in play, your real estate agent and your lender are the core of your home buying team.. If you don’t have an agent yet, get one (we can help you find an agent through YourAgentLynk)! If you haven’t selected a lender yet, interview several and get one working on your behalf.  They are (or should be) in the know on all things in their particular lane. Ask questions. Share concerns. Discuss options. This is what they are there for. Don’t make a drastic financial decision without consulting them. Getting wise and informed counsel helps home buyers make the best decision possible. And make sure you, your partner, and any family involved in the move are talking, sharing, and listening to one another.

#5) Be Ready To Make Your Move to Make a Move –

You never know when the right home at the right price in the right place will hit the market. In these times, some buyers (your competition) have dropped out of contention. Some sellers have decided to wait to list their home, or have taken their home off the market until things settle down. Rates are still low. This is a great opportunity for home buyers. Regardless of where you’re at and what your local government allows you to do outside of your current residence, there are things you can do to be best prepared to buy a home. Find a lender and keep them updated on any changes to your employment, income, and/or finances. Conduct phone interviews with prospective inspectors (home, septic, well, etc.) so you know who you’re using when the time comes for the inspection(s). Ask your agent to send additional listing information of current active listings, expired listings and cancelled listings. They can even retrieve listings that are temporarily off the market due to current conditions. Being prepared and ready to make your move on a place sets you up to be successful and satisfied with your home purchase.

Times are a changing…and those changes are affecting the 2020 real estate industry. There will be some changes that extend beyond the public health crisis and others will change back to “normal,” but we’re hoping this is the last time in our lifetime that you’ll hear an agent ask, “so can you see yourself self-quarantined in here?”

ACTION ITEMS

  • Read more at coronavirus.gov, CDC.gov, and news sites about the latest developments and public health recommendations and requirements by government agencies.
  • Download The Wishlist for Your Future Home. A free tool to help home buyers make the best decision on a home that best meets their needs.
  • Get help finding a real estate agent that matches with your needs. It’s free at YourAgentLynk.

About the Authors:

Jason and Kelli Krafsky are relationship experts turned Realtors, combining their relationship insights and real estate advice into articles and resources for home buyers, home sellers, and home owners at YourHomeLyfe.com!

Jason and Kelli Krafsky (a.k.a. Krafsky RE Team) are award winning brokers with John L. Scott, Inc. – Bellevue Main office and licensed real estate agents in Washington State. They work with home buyers and home sellers throughout the Puget Sound region and around the state, and often link people wanting to buy or sell outside the state with referred agents through YourAgentLynk. Jason and Kelli are also members of the National Association of REALTORS, Washington REALTORS, Seattle-King County REALTORS, and the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The Krafskys have been married since 1994 and have four adult children.

Copyright 2020 K. Jason & Kelli Krafsky

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