Are you ready to buy your first home but unsure where to start? In this post, I give you all the details on buying your first home during the pandemic.
A few blog posts ago, I mentioned that my husband and I purchased our first home in May of this year. That was two months after the pandemic started.
We were still under a pretty strict quarantine during this time, but we could navigate the home buying process with our realtor’s help.
To give you a little bit of a backstory, my husband and I moved to a new city in July of last year.
We told ourselves that we would wait one year to make sure that we liked the city and made sure we knew which area we wanted to live in before purchasing our first home.
In February, we started looking for a home. We tried to figure out the process and what steps to take and ended up hitting a roadblock.
In the middle of March, the pandemic started and everyone was under shelter in place orders.
We didn’t want to let the pandemic stop us from finding a home before we had to re-sign our lease, so we reached out to a new realtor. We started the home buying process without ever leaving our home.
Keep reading to see what steps we took to buy our first home.
Step 1: Get pre-approved
The first thing you want to do before you start looking for homes is to get pre-approved for a mortgage.
The difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification is that the pre-qualification letter is an estimate based on the information you give your lender.
The pre-approval letter is based on a credit check and documents that the company requests for verification.
Have the bank check your credit and submit any required documents before you even start looking for a house.
You don’t want to start looking for houses and get turned down for a mortgage because you are not eligible for the amount of money you need.
We are in a pandemic right now, and things are so uncertain. Banks have increased the credit score and down payment requirements.
The bank will also triple check your employment status before approving you for a mortgage, so make sure you have your pre-approval letter before you start the process.
Step 2: Find a realtor that you trust
A real estate agent that you trust is a non-negotiable when purchasing your first home, especially during a pandemic.
Since this is your first home, you want to make sure you get a real estate agent that has worked specifically with first-time homebuyers. The process takes a while, and you need to feel comfortable asking questions.
When my husband and I started our home search in February, we had a real estate agent, and she was very nice.
She was very knowledgeable about the process of purchasing homes. It just didn’t feel like she was catering to the first-time homebuyer. I had so many questions, and her answers were not very helpful.
Once we decided to start our home search process, we found a different real estate agent, and he was great.
You could tell that he has passion and cares about working with first-time homebuyers to make sure that they’re comfortable throughout the process.
Our agent took us through the process step by step. He even pointed out things in our contract and loan documents that we would never have known to ask about.
We got a great deal during the negotiation process because of the guidance he provided.
If you want your home buying process to go smoothly, make sure you find a good real estate agent.
Step 3: Prepare to view homes virtually
Being that we are in a pandemic, you will most likely have to do virtual tours to view homes.
I personally enjoyed the virtual tours. Our realtor went out to the homes we were interested in and called us on FaceTime.
We were able to see the home and ask questions. Our agent pointed out potential problems and solutions with each home he toured.
While virtual tours may not be the best way to view homes, it’s a great option to keep everyone safe.
Step 4: Prepare to view the home in person
Once we decided on a home, we could view it in person. We had to wear masks and gloves at the request of the sellers.
We also practice social distancing with the real estate agent once we were inside the home.
No matter how you feel about masks and social distancing, prepare yourself to respect the sellers’ wishes when it’s time to view a home in person.
Step 5: Brace yourself for a bidding war
The housing market is competitive right now.
Interest rates for mortgages are at an all-time low so you may find yourself in a bidding war.
This basically means not getting your hopes up until you are signing the last document at the closing table.
There are many reasons for a seller to accept one offer over another, so submit all of your documents on time and be prepared for a negotiation.
Step 6: Plan your first course of action
The last step is to decide your first course of action after closing on your home.
Are you going to go by and clean the home yourself? Are you going to hire cleaners to clean the home before you get ready to move in?
You also want to think about when and how you’re going to move your things.
Will you hire a moving service? Are you going to require the help of your family and friends?
These are all important things to figure out because moving takes a bit of extra planning during a pandemic.
The bottom line
Preparing to buy your first home can be very stressful and very complicated. The pandemic makes it even more hectic.
As long as you know what to expect and have a plan in place, you can easily and safely get it done.
Overall, we really enjoyed our home buying experience.
I hope what I shared here will help you prepare to purchase your first home during these uncertain times.
Remember that there’s no right or wrong way to do things during a pandemic but whatever you choose, make sure that you keep yourself and your family safe.