Although it may feel like the Covid-19 pandemic will last forever, it won’t. If you want to be ready to buy a house as soon as things open up, here are some steps you should take today.
Pick Your People
Real estate is a team sport. If you think of it like baseball, we can put the seller on the pitcher’s mound and the buyer in the batter’s box. Clearly, though, we need more players. We need infielders, outfielders, coaches, and bat boys. In real estate, the first two team members you need are a Realtor and a lender.
Thankfully, you can pick a good team with two simple tools: a phone and a computer. Use those tools to reach out to friends and neighbors for referrals, visit websites to learn more about potential team members, and be sure to pay attention to testimonials and reviews. Once you have a short list, schedule interviews via phone or video conferencing to see if you click with the Realtor and/or lender. You’re about to make one of the biggest investments of your life, so you want to work with people you trust and with whom it’s easy to communicate.
Do Your Research
If you’re a first-time homebuyer, search for buyer-assistance programs such as those available through the Veterans Administration (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). There are also state and local programs available. Your lender should be able to direct you.
Figure Out What You Can Afford
To qualify for a home loan, your loan broker will need all sorts of documentation, most of which you can collect online or with a few phone calls. You’ll need to provide a list of your assets, liabilities, tax returns, W-2s, bank statements, credit history, and other relevant financial information. If you want a traditional home loan, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have—and are likely to continue to have—reportable income. Basically, the only difference between being pre-approved and applying for a loan is that when you’re pre-approved, you haven’t found your property yet. Might as well get this out of the way now.
Define Your Must-Haves
As you begin to think about your future home, make two lists: must-haves and would-likes. This is an important distinction. With your detailed and accurate lists in hand, your Realtor will be able to identify which properties you should see, and which ones aren’t worth your time. How many bedrooms do you need? Does the school district matter? Are stairs okay? Do you want a pool? How big must your yard be? Are there neighborhoods you prefer?
Put Technology to Work for You
One of your Realtor’s most effective home-finding tools is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Once you’ve defined your criteria, your Realtor can set up an automatic email notification any time a new property comes on the market that matches your specifications. (Realtors are often in a position to hear about upcoming listings, too.)
Pay Attention to the Shelter-in-Place (SIP) Orders
As the economy opens up, restrictions on real estate activities will loosen. Talk to your Realtor about what’s allowed and what isn’t. As of May 5, in Mendocino County, the amended SIP restrictions allow a maximum of two buyers accompanied by a single Realtor to view a property for sale if, and only if, it had been vacant for a minimum of five days.
This pandemic will end, and when it does, sellers eager to sell their property will likely choose a buyer with a loan in-hand who is ready to sign on the dotted line.
If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at email@example.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.