Home Buying During the Pandemic: What You Need to Know

Buying a Home During the Pandemic

In the Charlotte market, technology and creativity are helping agents, buyers, and sellers abide by health and safety practices while getting deals done.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, some buyers are touring houses virtually. Others visit in person while remaining at least six feet from their agent. Sellers are hosting open houses on Facebook Live. Appraisers are doing drive-by valuations. Buyers are watching inspections via video call. Masked and gloved notaries are getting signatures on doorsteps.

At Barclay Realty Group, we have to adjust our business in order to continue serving our clients. The need for housing hasn't changed, so we are finding creative ways to move forward.

Here’s what home buying and selling during the pandemic looks like.

Showings Go Virtual

Currently, North and South Carolina allow in-person showings, but not all clients are comfortable with meeting at the property just yet.

Agents have conducted home tours via FaceTime and other similar tools for years. But these platforms have proven invaluable for home buying and selling during the pandemic. We are seeing many more 3D home tours than we used to.  Buyers can request a "video tour" through our website, BarclayRealtyGroup.com, as well as through nationwide platforms such as Zillow and Realtor.com. 

If our buyer client prefers to see the home in person, we are taking special precautions to ensure safety.  Agents wipe down door handles, offer masks, keep a 6-foot distance, and limit the group size to a maximum of 3 per showing. 

Down Payment Help

Many organizations offering down payment assistance to first-time home buyers have temporarily suspended the programs or changed the rules. You can check the status of programs by reaching out to our agents.

Desktop, Drive-By Appraisals

Appraisers are essential workers in many areas, so home valuations are continuing. But often remotely. New, temporary rules from the Federal Housing Finance Authority allow drive-by and desktop appraisals for loans backed by the federal government.

In a desktop appraisal, the appraiser comes up with a home estimate based on tax records and multiple listing service information, without an in-person visit. For a drive-by, the appraiser only looks at the home’s exterior, in combination with a desktop appraisal. The Appraisal Foundation has put out guidelines for handling appraisals during the pandemic. 

On the other hand, some private lenders still require in-person appraisals, which are allowed even in areas with shutdown orders. Private lenders hold about 35% of first-lien mortgages, according to the Urban Institute

When appraisers come to your home, they should adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including wearing gloves and a face mask, keeping at least 6 feet apart from anyone in the home, and asking if the homeowners have been sick or traveled recently to a COVID-19 hotspot.

Inspections Via Live Video

Inspectors are now often working alone, no buyers in tow, and using hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors advises inspectors to videotape their inspection so clients can watch it at home later, or to use FaceTime or other live video chat apps to take their clients along on the inspection, virtually. They can also call clients with their findings after they’re done.

The American Society of Home Inspectors has also issued guidelines for inspectors so they keep themselves and the homeowners safe while providing an accurate assessment of a home’s condition.

Mortgage Rates and Locks

With mortgage rates fluctuating quickly and closing times taking longer than usual, some lenders are extending mortgage rate lock periods. You can grab a good rate and hang on to it even if your lender takes longer than usual to process your loan.

But the protocol depends on the lender and the loan. Some lenders are offering this for all loans; others for refis. Check with your lender about its policy or reach out to one of our agents to be connected to a lender who can help.

Employment Verification

An important step in getting a mortgage is proving the borrower has a job. In pre-coronavirus days, lenders called the borrower’s employer for a verbal verification.

The Federal Housing Finance Authority, which oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federal home loan banks, has relaxed the rules for loans backed by the federal government because so many businesses are closed.

Lenders for federally backed loans now accept an email from an employer, a recent year-to-date paystub, or a bank statement showing a recent payroll deposit as proof of employment.

Closings Get Creative

Traditional closings, where everybody gathered around a big table to sign the final papers, are no longer possible. Attorneys are getting super creative in dealing with the limitations.

We are seeing drive-by closings, where clients sign papers from their cars.  Many attorneys are allowing buyers and sellers in their offices to sign, but no other guests such as Realtors and lenders.  Before you get ready to purchase, ask one of our agents about which attorneys we recommend and we can fill you in on the details of how they are closing during this time.

Should You Buy or Sell?

The real estate industry is creatively and safely responding to the situation, and mortgage rates remain low. Your agent is a great source of information about home buying and selling during the pandemic to help you feel comfortable. But, ultimately, it’s a question only you can answer.

Reach out to us today to talk about your next move in the Charlotte area!

[email protected] or 980-217-3900

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