Here’s a bit of good news just in time for the fall homebuying season: people are still buying and selling homes despite the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the homebuying market has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and people under 35 represent more than 50 percent of those buyers. However, buyers will be facing new challenges when it comes to finding their dream home.

Successfully navigating this market is possible if you know what to expect. Read on to learn a few things about finding your next home during this uniquely challenging time.

What makes the COVID-19 homebuying season different from previous ones?

The pandemic homebuying market can be summed up in two words: quick and competitive. Real estate experts are reporting that the majority of reasonably-priced homes tend to sell within a week on the market. Additionally, it’s more than likely that multiple offers are made on a single-family home — meaning you probably won’t be the only one to make a competitive bid.

Is the pandemic housing market a prime opportunity for renters to become buyers?

To rent or to buy? It’s a question many folks are asking themselves as we head into an unprecedented buying season. The  coronavirus has led to some major demographic changes that could make buying and renting less expensive, particularly in high-cost urban areas. Real estate agents call the phenomenon “pandemic pricing.” Factors behind it include rising unemployment and the new work-from-home professional culture, as well as a general aversion to crowded city life in the midst of a pandemic.

But is that enough to make a compelling case to buy? As with all things related to personal finance and investing, the answer is: It depends. Renters interested in taking advantage of “pandemic pricing” may want to consider the following:

Location, Location, Location (and timing, timing, timing)

When it comes to real estate, location still matters, even during a pandemic. Real estate agents in the Denver area are reporting an increased demand for single-family homes in suburban communities. Meanwhile, the Phoenix real estate appears to be rebounding after a pandemic-related slowdown, and the Coachella Valley housing market has experienced steady price increases along with a dwindling inventory.

Timing also matters. The length of time you plan to stay is just as important as where you want to live. Think about the point in time when your home’s equity exceeds its upfront costs. That’s what experts call the “break-even horizon”, and reaching it can take even longer in more expensive markets. In that case, it may make more sense to take advantage of the current lower rents to save up for a bigger down payment.

The Impact of Low Interest Rates

Interest rates have reached historic lows, which may make the upcoming homebuying season particularly attractive for many prospective buyers. After all, low interest rates can mean lower monthly payments and an easier time securing a mortgage.

What does house hunting look like during a pandemic?

Today’s new virtual landscape has made it easy for both first-time homebuyer and real estate veterans to complete an online home tour from the comfort of a living room. When you find a listing that you’re serious about and are ready to view it in-person, be sure to keep in mind that many real estate agents and home sellers have incorporated the following safety precautions into the showing process:

Masks (and other safety gear) required

You may be required to wear a face covering and some real estate agents are asking potential buyers to also wear gloves.

Social distancing during a showing or open house

Many real estate agents are restricting the number of people allowed in a home during a showing or open house. Some have limited viewings to just one person or couple/family in the home at a time. Plan ahead for social distancing measures during your visit, especially if that includes making arrangements for young children.

B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Pen)

It’s a minor change to the house hunting process, but many agents have chosen to no longer provide pens at their open houses. Bring your own writing utensils to reduce your risk of infection.

The pandemic housing market is full of challenges — and opportunities. Taking the time to learn more can make it easier to navigate a complex house hunting season. 

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