Touring homes smartly in a COVID-19 world
Few events have so dramatically impacted virtually every facet of our daily lives as has the coronavirus crisis. Its uniqueness and virulence swept the globe with shutdowns, spikes in unemployment, and many have lost their lives.
Now that most of those closures have been lifted — and the employment rate slowly improves — some Americans are taking a cautious approach toward returning to some semblance of pre-Covid-19 life. Others, meanwhile, are changing their behaviors entirely and remain practicing social distancing.
Somewhere in the middle are homebuyers, as most individuals who bought a home the traditional way say they would do it again if given the chance despite what they know now, according to the results of a new poll.
Among Americans who attended an open house within the past year, nearly two-thirds said they would attend another showing in the current conditions, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors.
Not only that, but they would rely more heavily on real estate professionals. Indeed, 47% of buyers acknowledged home experts — such as agents and loan officers — are particularly important for guidance during uncertain times. 53% of sellers echoed these sentiments. This leaves a group of people who say they would not attend an open house at least until it is deemed safe to do so by local authorities or medical professionals.
If you fall in the latter category, you're not alone. Virtual open houses are ongoing, which enable you to see via computer or mobile device just about everything you would under normal circumstances.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go about the homebuying process in a constantly evolving environment amid the Covid-19 world.
Do your homework on virtual open houses
Thanks to the internet, search tools, and home listing applications, doing your research has never been easier or more convenient. Taking a deep-dive into all the particulars of a potential home purchase is especially important for virtual open houses. Although modern technology is incredibly versatile and images are clearer than ever, nothing compares to touring a home. Thus, you'll really want to lean on your real estate agent who will likely be able to obtain details on the home that may not be available to you through regular home listing apps or search tools. For example, they may be able to get floor plans of the house which you can use a map to guide you during the virtual tour.
You may be surprised as to just how many people not only are looking to buy a house — largely due to record-low mortgage rates — but have attended virtual open houses. Talk to friends to see what they know and where to go.
In addition to your agent’s ability to find available listings and when they are showing, they can likely connect you with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a private real estate listing database that sends alerts to your email when certain properties in your area become available.
Linda Devlin, a Pittsburgh-based real estate professional, told Homelight that MLS is highly customizable.
"On the MLS, agents have always been able to post when we are going to have an open house, including the date and time," Devlin explained. "Now, MLS has added a virtual open house URL so we can put the link right there in the MLS listing. We can then send it to buyers or post it on any social media site."
Book viewings in advance
While all 50 states have emerged from lockdown mode, social distancing measures are still in place that restrict crowding and mandate face masks. For example, while there traditionally is no limit to how many people can be in an open house at any given time, that may not be the case for states looking to curb gatherings.
If you wanted to view a house in person, ask your real estate agent about convenient times to do so that won’t require special Covid-19 precautions. This way, you can really get a feel for the house and can avoid uneasiness about being among many people at once. In a recent survey conducted by Gallup and released in July, 54% of respondents said the lack of social distancing in their area had them worried, up from 45% in mid-May.
Inquire about disclosures
Disclosures are material defects in the house that traditionally cost money to repair. The seller is required to inform potential buyers of these, but you may forget to ask about them or not notice them during a virtual tour. Talk to your real estate agent about this issue.
By adapting to the circumstances of the moment, you can get all the information you need despite the restrictions to make the right decision for you and your family.
What is the real estate agent's role in home buying?
From an informational standpoint, this may be one of the best times in history to be interested in buying a home. Mobile apps, word of mouth and the internet are among the many ways to see what houses are up for sale, what they cost and where they're located.
Yet despite these technological conveniences, many would argue that the real estate agent remains the best source of all. The home buying process has many players, from the buyer, to the seller, to the lender to the inspector to the appraiser. The real estate agent is the tie that binds them all together. Here's how:
Helps you find the right home
Nearly 2 million houses throughout the country are up for sale, according to the National Association of Realtors. That's a lot to choose from, each with its own specifications and distinctions that make it unique. A buyer’s agent specializes in helping you find not only a house, but the right house by asking you a variety of questions that can help narrow down your search. Many people who enter the home buying process don't know exactly what they want to buy but may have some preferences. A buyer’s agent will go over certain issues that can provide guidance.
Common questions include:
Where would you like to live - in the city, suburbs or rural neighborhood?
How many people will be in the house with you?
Is there a particular architectural style of house you like or prefer?
How important is the location to where you live in terms of your work commute?
Do you want a house that is move-in ready or a fixer-upper?
What price range do you want to stay within?
Have you been pre-approved?
The more information they have to go on, the easier it will be for them to show you houses that are to your liking and within your spending comfort zone.
While many big-ticket items can be purchased entirely online - houses included - real estate remains something most people try before they buy. As such, your real estate agent will help you "test drive" a potential home by arranging appointments for you to see it in person. They may do this by getting in touch with the listing agent for the seller or finding out when the next open house is scheduled and coordinating with you to see what times work best.
Discuss your budget
If you plan on taking out a mortgage, conversation on money matters will largely be with your lender, but the real estate agent may also talk about finances with you. They do this to get a general idea of how much you're willing to spend and what is feasible based on your capability. This discussion can further guide them in terms of directing you to houses that you might be interested in buying, or at the very least seeing in person. Being pre-approved by your lender not only tells the real estate agent what price range of a home to show you but also you are a serious buyer.
Serve as a go-between
Generally speaking, sellers seek to maximize their property by getting the highest return for their investment; buyers aim to purchase as affordably as they can. The real estate agents involved help to find the middle-ground so everyone walks away happy. Once you make an offer, your real estate agent will take that number to the seller's agent to see what they think. They may come back with a counteroffer or accept the deal. Your agent may offer recommendations on what they think you should put forward based on their experience, what your budget is and the competition from other potential buyers.
Fill in the details
The biggest aspect of buying a home is, of course, the price. Today, the national median for existing homes is $295,300, based on the most recent figures available from the NAR.
But there is so much more than the list price to consider. There are also property taxes, closing costs, fees, and the history of the property, such as when it was built and the materials used for the basement or roof, for example. In this way, real estate agents are akin to detectives and fill in the gaps so you're more fully informed.
Attend the closing
There are many components to home buying, aside from the shopping process. Closing is among the biggest, which is where titles are reviewed, documents are signed, money changes hands, and the keys transfer from the seller to the buyer. Your real estate agent will be with you here to guide you through it all so nothing gets missed and the transaction is made official. Other attendees may include real estate attorney(s), the seller and their agent, a title company representative and the mortgage lender.
A real estate agent can make the home buying process go a whole lot smoother. Residential Mortgage Services looks forward to working with the one you choose.
Looking back on 2019: A year of community
Our focus is so often set on sharing information about mortgage loan products or tips on how to buy a house that we sometimes forget to highlight the great and impactful things our employees contribute to their communities. Each employee of Residential Mortgage Services, Inc. (RMS) found their way into the mortgage industry via different paths, but what unites us all is the essense of our motto: We'll Guide You Home.
That isn't a transaction. It isn't a quick "sale." It's a commitment to guide the people who come to us through one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. To help them reach their goal of homeownership. And owning a home isn't just a checkbox toward the "American Dream," it's establishing a place of safety, family (if so chosen), and wealth. It's a place where you belong. Every house and the occupants within are part of some kind of community. Every employee of RMS is as well.
Up and down the East Coast, RMS employees volunteer, donate, champion causes and help. Here are just a few of the great contributions our employees and RMS made in our communities last year:
Honoring our Veterans
Veterans’ Day is a time to honor and pay respect to those who have served our country. To all veterans, we thank you for your sacrifice and service. Click here for a list of businesses that are offering discounts and complimentary services to veterans in observance of Veterans’ Day.
A history of Veterans' Day:
Germany and the Allied Nations ceased fighting in World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Because of this, November 11, 1918 was known as “the end of the war to end wars.”
The following year, after the Treaty of Versailles was signed, President Wilson named November 11, “National Armistice Day” to honor those who died in service for their country. By 1938, Armistice Day became an official legal holiday in appreciation for those who fought in World War I.
In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, Congress amended the holiday to be Veterans’ Day, a day to celebrate all veterans.
Remember to take time today to appreciate and thank those who have served our country, it is because of their sacrifice that we are able to experience freedom.
How to create a good habit and stick to it
According to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of the resolutions set on New Year’s Eve are broken by February. If you have already failed at keeping the goal you set for 2019, don’t worry. You can still form a good habit (or break a bad one) by following some simple rules to keep you accountable!
Small Steps Add Up
Make sure that your habit is small, specific, and achievable. You can always build on your habits later, but in the beginning stages remember that small steps add up. You don’t want to start by completely depriving yourself from something because you will set yourself up for failure. For example, if you are hoping to reduce your spending so you can make a large purchase in the future, start by brewing your own coffee in the morning and packing your lunches Monday through Thursday.
Use Your Momentum
Try linking your new habit to a pre-existing habit you already have. This will make you accountable and keep you on a regular schedule. Use the formula: [Before/after existing habit], I will [new habit]. So, if you are trying to pack your lunches during the week, you might consider packing your lunch as soon as you finish eating dinner.
Little Rewards Go a Long Way
Reward yourself along the way to reinforce your habit. Most people forget to reward themselves for taking steps towards beneficial habits. Many positive habits, like eating healthier or exercising, do not have immediate obvious rewards, so it is important to reinforce your progress with rewards of your own. If you're trying to pack your lunch Monday through Thursday, you may want to treat yourself to lunch out with friends on Friday. This will keep you from feeling deprived so you are more likely to stick to your goal.
Never Miss Twice
You are going to slip sometimes. Just because you fell off the wagon one day doesn’t mean that you failed and should give up. Try following the “Never miss twice” rule to give you enough flexibility to make mistakes, but inspire you to get back on track the next day. Maybe you had a rough morning and bought yourself coffee on the way to work and went out for lunch today. No problem. Tomorrow you will brew your own dark roast and pack your leftovers to eat. It’s okay to fail, just make it a goal not to do it two times in a row.
Forming a new habit can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Make sure you set up specific goals and have realistic expectations. Reward yourself as you make progress, and stop expecting perfection. Habit forming is a journey, and you are going to make mistakes along the way. Don’t beat yourself up, just do better the next day and remember why you wanted to adopt the habit in the first place.
You've got this.