So far 2020 has been a strange time to move. Housing-hunting plans across the country have been suspended for months by COVID-19 health issues and local lockdowns. If you're still thinking about buying a new home and feeling a little itchy to resume plans, you're in luck. Prices are currently historically low and sellers have found innovative ways to deal with the current need for home buyers to be contactless when looking for a home.
Finding your next home is a little more complicated than it was 12 months ago, but you don't have to skip your search altogether. You're sure to find the ideal home in a perfect neighborhood – even off-road – by turning on your cell phone or booting up your laptop. Almost every step in the search for an apartment was virtual!
Be an online detective
When searching for available homes online, remember that any real estate agent worth a dime will be able to pick the right words and cropped photos to make even the ugliest homes look and sound. Here are some general tricks to keep in mind.
Photo red flags:
- Mostly outdoors: interiors may need editing
- Closed shutters: the view outside is terrible
- Sink from every angle: tiny bathroom
- Extended images: the rooms are smaller than they appear
What words mean:
- Comfortable: worn out
- Cozy: small
- Spacious Rooms: Medium sized rooms
- Great bones: bowel rehabilitation required
- Craftsman special: Has been neglected
- Lots of potential: dated and needs updating
- Old World Charm: Just Old
- Unique: the previous owner had a special taste
- Partial views: Disappointing views
- Quiet Block: Neighbors Complain When You Throw A Party
Roll the video
Even before the coronavirus pandemic Real estate agent had seen video as a smart and easy way to reach as many potential buyers as possible. Some home virtual tours are really professional. In today's highly competitive real estate world, an online property listing that does not include a video tour can be submitted for one that does.
If there is a listing that gets your attention but doesn't have a video tour on it, do yourself a favor and don't discount the listing. Hungry agents will go out of their way to pique a buyer's interest and may create a custom video or do a personalized walkthrough through Zoom or Facetime.
Get a floor plan
Do you like what you see on video? Check that the listing has an up-to-date floor plan to refer to. So you can better understand how the house is and how big each room is. Also, you might see spaces that sellers skip asking for a closer look. If the listing doesn't include a floor plan, request one.
Check the hood
Google Maps is a great tool for getting a feel for a potential neighborhood and for anticipating what to expect on the commute, quick shopping spree, or dog walk. You can see traffic trends and property levels, and get a pretty accurate idea of how long it will take to get to a favorite park or restaurant by foot, car, or bike. Speaking of which, if local businesses have indoor maps available, you can also access them through Google Maps. It's a great way to get a taste of a new neighborhood.
Another great feature of Google Maps is that you can pin places of interest, add notes about each location, and – if you're planning a visit to the office – add directions to each listing. Include similar services Satellite.netthat brings up a satellite view of any location for a quick snapshot of the area, and Instant street viewIt shows pictures of most addresses without having to access the Google Maps app.
Dig deeper with 3D
Google earth is another nice online tool that can help you get an address so you can see a 3D representation of the house and the surrounding property. As you zoom out, you get a bird's eye view of the area so you can map nearby libraries, parks, grocery stores, gas stations, and anything else you want. You can also see how far away schools, hospitals, fire departments and airports are in relation to the properties you are considering. This can give you an idea of whether you live on a quiet street or on a street that could be central to essential services.
Take a virtual walk
When choosing a neighborhood to live in, it's nice to take to the sidewalk. That's why Walkscore is such a great online tool. Enter an address and the website will show you how walkable and drivable the area is. You can also explore transportation options and get an overview of a typical shuttle service. Also, you can expand the walkscore map to show amenities like local restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping, educational institutions, etc.
A unique feature shows how far you can run (or cycle or ride) in a given amount of time. This way you can easily see what is within a 10 minute walk of your home. You will also see pictures of local apartments and houses for sale and get more detailed information on the history of home sales in the area. We love this website especially for buyers in the early stages of their home search who may not be able to reach all of the areas looked at.
Find a digital community
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are gold miners when it comes to getting a feel for a neighborhood (and the neighbors). Just search for the name of the city – or a similar hashtag – and a neighborhood group should come up!
If you're looking for more information about the neighborhood that you're handy to be home hunting in, give it a try Nextdoor.com. You need to open an account and look for a group to join (usually by village / neighborhood name). Nextdoor is like Facebook for a specific area, and neighbors post all sorts of things like complaints about garbage disposal, questions about parking regulations, and advice on school systems, local events, and activities for children. Do you have a question about the area? This is the perfect place to get answers and a digital sense of community.
Consider buying without a visit
In the current health crisis, sellers may be reluctant to do open house and personal home tours. And while it can be considered risky to buy a home if you can't go inside, it is not uncommon and has happened a long time, even before the coronavirus.
If you have some level of convenience in the neighborhood or you are an out of state shopper, buying a sight that the strength of a video makes it impossible to see is a worthwhile option. When buyers have visited enough open homes, they know what they are looking for and have the confidence to know when they will come across the perfect property.
If it still feels a little risky, get in touch with a real estate attorney who is willing to draft a contract so the buyer can step back if they think a video is misrepresenting the physical property.
The virtual home hunt is fine and good, but most people still prefer to see a listing with their own eyes before making an offer. If that sounds like you, but you are reluctant to walk into a house where the current seller still lives, focus on vacant houses or new buildings. These are usually available as long as you adhere to the agreed security measures.
If you are interested in a home that is currently occupied, have your real estate agent check that everyone in the household is healthy. Once you have cleared this hurdle, take all necessary precautions to protect yourself and to obey CDC guidelines. Here are some tips to make your contactless visit as secure as possible:
- Request a private visit. Stay away from "open houses" that anyone can enter.
- Wear protective face coverings
- Practice social distancing at all times. This includes your real estate agent. Drive there in separate cars and have your agent wait outside or in the entrance in smaller houses and condos while you tour the house on your own.
- Ask that all rooms, cabinet doors, and kitchen cabinets remain open to minimize touching of buttons and handles.
- Avoid touching household surfaces without wearing disposable gloves – especially if you feel like you are turning on light switches and testing water pressure in taps, showers, and toilets.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap after leaving the house
Ready to start?
Now that you know the home search is safe and non-contact, you can Determine if the time is right for you to take a step. Before starting the process, you should know that this is a competitive market. Once you have determined the neighborhood you want to live in and the home of your dreams, you want to act fast.
Your first call should be to a loan officer to see what you can afford and to start the pre-approval process. A signed pre-approval means you can get an offer for your next dream home with confidence, giving you a competitive advantage over other home buyers.
And since dealing with a Movement Mortgage Loan Officer is completely contactless, this is a win-win situation. Find a local loan officer Here or start your online application Here.