Pandemic Home Buying: The Unique Challenges First-Time Homebuyers Face During COVID-19

Buying your first home is one of life’s most exciting, and challenging, milestones. It’s perhaps something you’ve been dreaming of for quite a long time. You almost assuredly anticipated there would be difficulties, there would be setbacks and frustrations.

But if you are buying your first home in the age of COVID-19, you’re undoubtedly experiencing challenges you never could have imagined or prepared for. Nevertheless, the pandemic does not have to deprive you of the home of your dreams. You just might have to take a bit of a different route in getting there!

Low-Interest Rates, Increased Competition

Paradoxically, even as the nation and the world grapple with the economic fallout of the pandemic, right now could very well be an ideal time to dive into homeownership. Interest rates are at an all-time low, and many lenders are relaxing some of their qualification requirements in light of today’s pandemic economy.

At the same time, however, you’re probably going to find yourself facing a bit of additional paperwork, as lenders look to confirm your employment is at least somewhat stable during this uncertain time.

You’re also going to need to be prepared for low inventories and fierce competition. There aren’t a lot of new homes on the market right now, and they’re tending to get snatched up almost as soon as they’re listed.

So before you even start your search, and certainly before you let yourself fall in love with a property, you need to get your financial ducks in a row. If at all possible, get pre-approved before you start the hunt. Your mortgage pre-approval letter can give you a definite advantage over other buyers if and when you find the house that you’re meant to turn into a home.

Going Virtual

Like pretty much every other aspect of life in our COVID-19 world today, you’re probably going to find yourself doing most of your home touring and business dealings remotely. Virtual home tours are a fantastic way to get a feel for the property.

With a virtual tour, you can participate in a real-time remote walkthrough guided by a realtor, or you can pull up videos, 3D graphics and schematics, and still photos on demand. You can even take a virtual tour of the neighborhood using GPS-based apps.

These tours are tremendous convenience for prospective homebuyers, but there are downsides. The ability to remotely tour practically any home you want with just the touch of a button can easily lead to new house overload. You may be tempted to explore every house on the market, and that makes it easy to critique to death every property you see.

The simple truth is, there’s just no such thing as the perfect home. And in the face of low-interest rates and equally low inventories, the constant search for something “better” can make you miss out on something potentially great.

Getting Ready

One of the most important things you can do if you’re buying your first home in the age of COVID is to keep an open mind. You might find yourself settling on a property that perhaps isn’t everything you had dreamed of, but has the potential to become precisely that.

For example, you should never underestimate the power of a paint job to transform a space. A seemingly cramped and dated living room can magically become a lush and expansive oasis with just a coat of bold green color on the walls.

The good news is, if you’re doing a virtual tour, you’re likely going to have the capability to play around with the color schemes and decor of your prospective new home, allowing you to “see” the property not only as it is, but as it could be.

Moving With a Little One

Buying a home today isn’t just about contending with the reality of the virus. It’s about finding the normal in a period of immense change. If you have children, that’s especially crucial. Changes in work, school, and simply in the overall patterns of daily life have undoubtedly already unsettled your kids, at least to some extent.

Relocating to a new home in the midst of so much change will only compound this, unless you employ a bit of strategy. To help your kids cope, for example, you might take some extra time getting your children accustomed to their new neighborhood. Having a socially distanced visit to the new neighborhood can be a great help as your children prepare for this transition.

If you’re in the process of moving before winter hits, you’re looking at a situation in which the holidays are fast approaching and that stress of the pandemic is already here. That is the perfect recipe for a meltdown, both for the kiddos and for yourself.

So before your kids get overwhelmed by the pressure of the move, the pandemic, and the holiday chaos, be proactive. Reduce some of the stress of the holidays in your new home by building family quiet time into your routine. Establish a daily routine for life in the new house, but don’t forget to build in your new holiday rituals: carols around the new fireplace; warm chocolate chip cookies freshly baked in your fancy new oven.

The Takeaway

Buying your first home is always stressful, but it can be especially so when you’re trying to do it in the middle of a global pandemic. Nevertheless, there are ways to make the process flow more smoothly, from taking advantage of today’s low-interest rates and relaxed qualification standards to exploring your prospective new home virtually.

With a little ingenuity, some patience, and a whole lot of flexibility, you can greet the end of this pandemic in a house that isn’t just a home, but a haven.