By: Tara Mastroeni
There’s no denying that the spread of coronavirus has made the process of buying a home more difficult in some places and nearly impossible in others. However, even though your area may be dealing with restrictions on the real estate industry, that doesn’t mean you have to put your dreams of owning a home on hold indefinitely.
Rather, there are things that you can do now to make sure you’re ready to get out there and buy a home once any virus-related restrictions have been lifted. Read on below to learn what you can do to get ready to hit the market ASAP.
Assemble your team of experts
If you haven’t done so already, now is the perfect time to get find the industry experts who will help guide you through your home search. In particular, you should try to get connected with a lender and a real estate agent.
Fortunately, the process for finding these professionals is the same whether or not you’re currently under a stay-at-home order. You may want to start out by asking around for referrals. Then, do some of your own research. Look up a few local professionals and be sure to read any online reviews.
Once you’ve narrowed down a short list of candidates, call up the professionals and ask if you can schedule a time to interview them. Most lenders and agents will be happy to do this either over the phone or via video chat. Once you hold those meetings, you should have a better sense of who might be the right fit for you.
Educate yourself on buyer assistance programs
Many buyers, especially first-timers and those with lower incomes may benefit from buyer assistance programs when they go to purchase a home. While every one is different, these programs often offer assistance buyers by offering them lower-interest loans and/or funds that can be put towards a down payment and closing costs.
While you can certainly do research into these programs on your own, it may be helpful to ask your lender for guidance. Many of these programs are offered on a state and local level, so your lender will be aware of the specific options that are available in your area. He or she will also be able to tell you which options will be most appropriate for you, based on the specifics of your financial situation.
Get clear on what you’re looking for in a home
Now is also the perfect time to really get clear on what you’re looking for in a home. When you meet with your real estate agent - virtually or otherwise - he or she will ask you for some parameters to guide your home search. Knowing what you want in a home will make this process easier.
One way that you can start to narrow down your preferences is by making a few lists. In particular, you’ll want to make a “needs” list and a “wants” list. Your “needs” list should include anything that is essential to making a new property work for you, such as a certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms or a particular location.
Your “wants” list, on the other hand, should include any features that would be nice to have in a home, but aren’t absolute deal-breakers. For example, maybe you’d like a home that has a pool in the backyard or one that has a big kitchen for entertaining.
Ask to be put on an MLS search
After you’re clear on those factors, you should ask your real estate agent to be put on an MLS search. While each area may have its own MLS system, in general, these programs are databases that store information about available listings.
Your agent should be able to use the criteria you provide - the information about what you’re looking for in a home - to put you on a search. Once that’s done, you’ll be notified anytime a listing that meets your search criteria comes on the market.
While there may not be a lot of listing hitting the market in the midst of the pandemic, getting a search set up in advance ensures that once any restrictions are lifted, you’ll be among the first ones to get out and see any properties that pique your interest.
Check your state’s guidelines
Finally, it may be worth looking into your states guidelines regarding real estate. In some states, real estate has been deemed an essential service and you may be able to go on showings, provided you’re willing to follow appropriate social distancing measures.
If you’re unsure what the rules are in your state, check with your real estate agent. Odds are that he or she has been briefed on current industry regulations and will be able to tell you how to proceed.