02 Jun How to Buy Your Dream Home During COVID-19
Interested in buying a house during the pandemic? The good news – it can be done.
Despite the pandemic and social distancing, some Western Massachusetts residents are still looking for, buying, and moving into new homes. However, the home buying process looks much different today than it did this time last year.
COVID-19 has significantly impacted just about every part of our lives, but with every passing day, we start to inch closer toward normalcy. Today, setting up a face-to-face meeting with your mortgage lender, attending an open house with dozens of other eager couples, or sitting down with your insurance agent to discuss a homeowners policy are tough to coordinate, although don’t let that derail you from your goal of homeownership. Many local real estate professionals have pivoted their in-person service approach to help make your dream home a reality.
The McClure Insurance team spent some time over the last couple of weeks talking to several of our realtor, attorney, and mortgage broker colleagues and are prepared to share everything we’ve learned about the new, social distancing-friendly process.
Step 1: Research homes, neighborhoods, and real estate partners online.
We’re all looking for creative ways to help pass the time at home, so why not use your newfound time to do some in-depth real estate research. From your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, you can begin virtually exploring the towns and cities where you’re interested in planting roots. City-Data.com, for example, is a free tool designed to help you learn about average home values, school systems, and crime rates for the neighborhoods that interest you most.
Beginning your home search online is also a great way to find and research local realtors and loan officers. Once you’ve read through your potential partners’ company websites, Facebook pages, and Google reviews, you may want to chat openly with friends and family to see if they can validate the experiences you’ve read about online.
With your narrowed-down partner list, conducting phone or Zoom interviews to get to know each candidate on a personal level is our recommended next step. During this time, don’t be shy. Be sure to ask questions about their specific home buying process and how they plan to support you during this time.
As you can see, to successfully purchase a home during these unprecedented times, you’ll need to place a lot of trust in your real estate partners. These men and women will be your eyes, ears, and hands, walking your new home, attending your inspections, and, in some cases, your closing. Pandemic or not, it is critical that they are willing to go the extra step and advocate for you and your best interest throughout your home buying journey.
Step 2: Request an electronic preapproval from your mortgage lender.
Once you’ve found your real estate dream team, it’s essential to have a preapproval in hand to legitimize any home offers you plan to make. Despite the pandemic, home inventory is still low, and listing prices are high, allowing sellers to dominate and dictate the market. As a result, many sellers are receiving multiple bids and likely will not entertain an offer without a preapproval letter. A mortgage preapproval is a signed letter from your lender stating how much you’ve been qualified to borrow at a specific rate. Due to COVID-19, you’ll likely need to secure a preapproval online.
To expedite the process for your mortgage broker, start to pull together a snapshot of your financial history. Review your credit score with free services like Credit Karma and locate essential financial information, such as W2s, federal tax returns, bank statements, and pay stubs.
Step 3: Schedule a virtual home tour or open house.
Due to COVID-19, many real estate agents have begun hosting live home tours and virtual open houses online. While this is far from the norm, there are some clear benefits to this new digital approach. With the click of a mouse, you can explore every nook and cranny of dozens of homes over a day or weekend.
Don’t let the term virtual open house throw you. This is by no means an electronic simulation. In most cases, your very real, real estate agent will walk a property for you, with you viewing alongside remotely via video conference. Despite not being there physically, you’ll still be able to ask questions and request to see particular details of the home.
However, many people may be wary of buying a home that they never physically stepped foot in. If viewing a home on Zoom or FaceTime is not for you, ask your realtor to try and coordinate a physical home tour. If the seller is comfortable and agrees, you’ll likely be asked to use hand sanitizer and wear a mask, disposable shoe coverings, and gloves.
Step 4: Discuss home insurance coverages with your trusted McClure Insurance agent over the phone or by appointment.
If you’re shopping for your dream home and making a significant financial commitment to yourself and your lending institution, it’ll be important to ensure it is properly protected. When you finance your new home, you’ll likely be required by the bank to secure a home insurance policy to safeguard the actual building structure. However, that shouldn’t be your only motivator to purchase a comprehensive homeowners policy.
Partnering with an experienced independent agent, like McClure, will help you see the clear benefits of an inclusive home insurance policy, especially one that protects more than your home’s infrastructure. Think about all the things that make your house a home: your cherished family heirlooms, broken-in leather couch, smart devices, and loved ones. Aligning yourself with a local agent, like McClure Insurance, will guarantee that your home and everything you care about are looked after should something disastrous happen, like fire, volatile weather, vandalism, theft, and more.
While we navigate this national disaster together, our agency is available for in-person meetings by appointment only. However, all home insurance-related transactions can be completed over the phone or online.
Step 5: Close on your new home remotely.
Believe it or not, before the pandemic, remote closings had become pretty routine for buyers and sellers. Every closing attorney’s process is different, but your lawyer or the bank-appointed attorney will likely send all relevant closing documents to you via email, allowing you to review and sign through a secure electronic signature system.
Electronic signatures were made possible when the E-Sign Act was passed into law in 2000. This legislation legally validates electronic records and signatures for transactions involving the buying and selling of goods, property, etc. However, a physical signature may still be required for some paperwork. In those cases, your attorney will generally send you a FedEx with all the necessary documents before your scheduled closing date, again, giving you the time to review, sign, and mail all paperwork back to the appropriate parties. On the day of your closing, with signed documents in hand, your realtor or lawyer will attend your closing to ensure the transaction is complete and keys are swapped.
McClure Insurance is here to help you secure home insurance remotely.
Whether you’re getting ready to purchase your first home, or thinking about downsizing to a condo now that your children have moved out, finding the right insurance agent is essential in ensuring your investment and family are adequately protected.
At McClure, everything we do is centered around you. Your safety and protection have and will remain our top priority. Our personal insurance team will listen to your needs and concerns, evaluate your current coverage, and ask detailed questions before presenting you with a personalized home insurance quote that is as unique as you.