SERIES: Home Buying in the Age of Coronavirus
Stephens Real Estate is here to help you navigate this confusing time in real estate. We are sharing portions of the national realtor.com series, "Home Buying in the Age of Coronavirus," and adding local details specific to the Lawrence market.
Should I Buy a House During the Coronavirus Crisis?
Spring 2020 has been a season like no other. Life has changed for everyone, everywhere. Typically, this time of year has lots of potential home buyers checking out properties, negotiating contracts, and closing on new places. But the coronavirus outbreak—with its quarantine measures and economic uncertainties—has many a real estate shopper wondering: Should I buy a home now, or wait?
So, what is the state of the housing market right now? While that depends on the impact of COVID-19 in each specific area, most markets are experiencing some sort of hit. The March Flash Survey from the National Association of Realtors® found that 48% of real estate agents have noticed a decrease in buyer interest attributable to the coronavirus outbreak. However, nearly an equal number of members (45%) said that they believe lower-than-average mortgage rates are tempting buyers to shop around anyway.
For those determined to buy a home, opportunity is out there. Fewer people are looking, so buyers have less competition. Stephens broker Chris Earl says, “Buyers who were on-the-fence before COVID-19 may have stopped house shopping for a time, but we have seen quite a bit of traffic in the Lawrence market. Homes in certain price ranges have continued to go under contract quickly.”
Local lender, Diane Fry of Fairway Independent Mortgage says, “There is talk of interest rates dropping, but loans may be tougher to get in the short term. Anyone thinking about buying should talk to their local lender to find out about new opportunities and new restrictions. Low interest rates, along with pent-up demand make this a perfect time to buy.”
How the housing industry has adapted to keep buyers safe
The industry has rapidly adapted, introducing approaches that minimize exposure to the virus. For instance, Stephens agents and support team members quickly transitioned to a remote work environment. Much of their business is being handled virtually. Many listings now offer virtual tours to make showings easier and safer. Agents may send property videos to clients or they may FaceTime from a property. Zoom calls make “face-to-face” meetings among groups of people possible, and the ability to send and sign forms digitally has kept the transaction process rolling along.
Industry partners quickly made changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lisa Henry of Security 1st Title says, “We have implemented specific procedures to keep our team and customers safe. Security 1st offers several closing options to ensure your transactions close on time and in a safe environment. There are many aspects to a successful closing, however, communication is the most important component in making sure all pieces are in place for closing day.”
While some folks may want to stay home, others prefer to view properties in person. That is possible in Lawrence, but you will want to discuss options and precautions with your Stephens agent. Agents are encouraged to meet clients at showings rather than drive together. Agents and clients are using face masks, hand sanitizer, and shoe covers. During a tour, it’s now customary for the listing agent to open all doors, so that home buyers can explore closets and other enclosed spaces without touching anything as they look.
How to weigh economic concerns
Coronavirus aside, anyone thinking about buying a home is likely to be weighing whether it’s a smart idea when the economy is uncertain. But in the same way you can’t easily time a stock purchase to make a profit, you can’t easily time a home purchase, either.
Stephens recommends that you talk to a lender before starting a home search. Your agent knows great local lenders who are in-the-know about current rates and regulations. They are uniquely positioned to help you make your best decision during these uncertain times.
Portions of content from realtor.com, written by Margaret Heidenry