The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the home buying experience. Virtual tours, Zoom calls, and remote closings are now a part of real estate transactions. And while vaccines are being developed and deployed, no one knows for sure when life can go back to the way it was. The best thing to do is follow the local public health and safety guidelines as we carry on with the “new normal.”
You might have plenty of burning questions about purchasing a property during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, we’ve compiled FAQs, home buying tips, and real estate advice for buyers like you. For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.
Can I still buy a property during the pandemic?
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The state of Pennsylvania previously considered real estate to be a non-life-sustaining business. Governor Tom Wolf, however, has stopped using the categorization. As such, you’re free to proceed with your plan to buy a home. Just make sure to observe the local guidelines and prepare for a remote home buying experience.
From a financial standpoint, is it still OK to buy a house?
You can definitely purchase a new house if you’re financially capable. Mortgage interest rates remain historically low, which is a benefit you should take advantage of if you can. It means lower monthly housing payments, which will result in savings.
How has the pandemic affected house prices?
The pandemic drove up the prices of homes because people were reluctant to sell. At the same time, those who lived in the city were on the lookout for homes in less crowded surroundings. Thus, demand outstripped supply. As of December 2020, there were only 98 active listings in the West Chester real estate market. That’s a 61% year-on-year drop, compared to 254 active listings in December 2019.
The low inventory resulted in higher home prices, as the demand for homes in West Chester continued unabated. This means that West Chester is currently a seller’s market.
If you’re really intent on securing your dream home, be prepared for the possibility of a bidding war. With the help of a real estate agent, you can plan ahead and strategize on how best to make sweeter, standout offers that sellers will find hard to resist.
Are open houses now allowed?
While Pennsylvania’s mitigation and enforcement order doesn’t single out real estate, the state encourages all businesses to conduct their transactions remotely.
If you want to visit open houses, that is entirely up to you. Our best advice for buying a home during the pandemic is to check out virtual open houses instead. You can ask your agent for help with this.
Should I take advantage of low interest rates and buy a house even if my finances are on shaky ground?
The short answer is no. Financial capability is one of the absolute musts in buying a home. Home ownership itself can be costly.
If you don’t have a stable income, savings, and access to other credentials that can help you secure a mortgage loan, it would be best to postpone buying a home until you’re financially stable.
If I want to view a property, how can I safely do it?
Digital showings are now encouraged as a means to keep all parties safe. Most sellers nowadays offer virtual tours; otherwise, you can ask the seller and your agent to set this up for you.
If a virtual showing is still not enough, negotiate an appointment with the seller. If you’re viewing the property, remember to practice health protocols such as:
- Mandatory wearing of face masks or coverings and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as may be required by the state or the seller
- Keeping a distance of six feet or more when interacting with people
- Bringing a sanitizer with 60% alcohol
- Using shoe covers when inside the house
How long does the closing process take?
Closing usually takes 30-45 days. But because of the pandemic, anticipate longer lead times.
It’s not you. It’s the lending companies. Lenders are backlogged. Because of low mortgage interest rates, there has been an influx of refinancing applications resulting in a mountain of paperwork.
On top of that, pandemic-related limitations make it harder to complete contingencies like home inspections, appraisals, and repairs. Fortunately, remote online notarizations are now permanently allowed in Pennsylvania.
Remember to remain patient and extend your understanding to everyone involved in the real estate transaction. Like other businesses, parties in the home-buying process want to proceed safely.
I’m ready to buy a home; what are the next steps?
If you’re thinking of moving to a southwestern Pennsylvania, we at RE/MAX DIRECT can help you find a home in the communities of Downingtown, Phoenixville, Unionville Chaddsford, and Main Line.
We’ll guide you through the process and let you in on more real estate tips for buyers. Call RE/MAX DIRECT at 610.430.8100 or email remaixdirectwc(at)gmail(dotted)com for more information, including first time homebuyer programs in Chester County, PA.