Troves of historical real estate data show that spring and summer are the busiest times of the year to buy a home. But 2020 has brought plenty of new questions about what will become the new normal. If you’ve been thinking about buying before the pandemic, you’re probably trying to figure out if right now is the right time – because of travel limitations, job security, home inventory, or all of the above.
While we don’t have a crystal ball, we do know that buyers nationwide are still searching for and making offers on homes. Median listing prices have dropped by $21,000 since mid-March, and with new ways to tour homes virtually, some buyers are getting their offers accepted on hot properties that would otherwise prompt a bidding war.
But the question remains: what are the risks and rewards of buying a home during a pandemic? We interviewed 22 Redfin homebuyers in cities across the country to figure that out, and the results were quite insightful.
Virtual tours and tools really can get you across the finish line, if you’re comfortable with it
The most obvious risk is that in many places, it’s not possible to be physically present for the most important steps of homebuying – especially touring. As video-chat home tours skyrocket, many buyers have been able to determine which homes they’re serious about and which they’re not much faster and more easily. Some buyers have even made offers contingent upon seeing the home in person, and others have had their offers accepted without leaving their current home – saying they’ll be able to get a better home at a lower price if they move forward now.
“A [virtual tour] takes the pictures and puts the house together, like a puzzle. One house we really liked, and then we saw it through a video-chat tour and we realized we would really hate it based on the layout.”
– Homebuyer, Phoenix AZ
When offers were made and accepted, it has still been possible to complete financing and closing needs remotely. Since so much of our daily life is now virtual – and Redfin offers electronic closings on qualified transactions, though not available in all locations – this is expected by those involved. But the majority of buyers preferred to have their agent available to walk through the paperwork for closing, even if over a phone or video call.
More than ever, homebuyers are relying on expert advice from their agents
Homebuyers are now working with their agents to get even more guidance on what to do next at every step of the homebuying process. With the housing market changing rapidly, there’s a greater need for the most up-to-date information on the US Housing Market conditions and trusted opinions on how to interpret them. Redfin Agents have been frequently checking in with their buyers, providing the most recent listings and explaining strategies on how to take advantage of the local real estate market.
Those buyers making offers in competitive areas have also been able to find success coming in at lower price points than they might otherwise – with calculated agent help. Some home sellers seem to want to speed up the offer review process and accept the first good offer when normally they’d wait several days to see the highest offer come through. This has been an advantage for qualified buyers, who may have an easier time getting their offer accepted.
Individual circumstances matter, so trust your gut.
Redfin Agents will always let their clients know when they have a good deal and when they should walk away. The same should be true for buyers when they assess their own position. The social and economic landscape in the US has shifted dramatically in a very short period of time, making a real impact on individuals’ employment, finances, health, and safety.
If the risks of future uncertainty significantly outweigh the benefits of buying a home, it might be time to adjust your homebuying timeline. If you feel secure in your position to move forward, our local agents and virtual technology can help you get started. Regardless of your position, we ask that you prioritize your own health and the health of those around you above all else – even if there’s a perfect front yard involved.
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