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Buying a home is an exciting and stressful event no matter what, but especially in the midst of a global pandemic. With new rules and regulations temporarily in place, you may be concerned or confused about how to proceed. While spring is generally the biggest home-buying period of the year, many people are choosing NOT to proceed with their house hunt. However, many others simply do not have the option to wait.
If you’re in the market for a new home, here’s what you need to know to conduct a virtual house hunt that’s as good as the real thing.
Hire A Local Real Estate Agent
Hiring the right real estate agent can improve your home-buying process no matter the situation. Local real estate brokers and agents have a thorough knowledge of the real estate market in their communities. They know which neighborhoods will best fit clients' needs and budgets. They can inform you of local zoning and tax laws as well as where to obtain financing for the purchase of your property. The list goes on.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the right real estate agent can be of help in other ways too. Rules about travel restrictions and business operations vary from state to state (and even county to county) right now. Many real estate services are considered “essential” right now in many places, meaning that despite other business closures, the services associated with buying or selling a home are allowed to continue operating as long as social distancing rules are being followed. However, these rules vary depending on where you live (or where you are moving to). An experienced, local real estate agent can provide deeper insights into what is and is now permitted right now.
Learn More: 7 Questions To Ask Your Potential Realtor
Dive Into Online Listings
According to The National Association of Realtors, 9/10 homebuyers already rely on the internet as one of their primary resources for finding a new home. Knowing what to look out for in online listings is especially vital right now. Your real estate agent will help you dig into the details of an online listing, but here are some things to keep an eye out for:
· If the photos have been stretched out, the seller may be trying to make the room appear larger than it actually is.
· If there are more photos of the exterior than the interior, that may be a sign that the inside needs some work.
· Bathroom photos that are focused on the sink may mean the bathroom is unusually small.
· Are closed curtains hiding an ugly view?
· Keep an eye out for terms like “fixer-upper”. Sometimes this signals a great investment opportunity, but it could also signal an endless money pit.
None of these “red flags” guarantee that there’s anything wrong with the house, so don’t rule a listing out based on a single bad bathroom shot. Instead, just be aware of these listing “tricks” and make sure you do your due diligence. Want to find out what’s behind that closed curtain? Ask for a picture!
Get The Most Out Of Virtual Tours
Quickly adapting to the coronavirus outbreak, many online listings now come with virtual tour videos of the home. This can be incredibly helpful, but don’t be afraid to ask for more.
· If you like a property video, ask if there is any additional footage available. Some listing videos are cut short in the editing room in order to keep the video short and dynamic.
· Ask for a live video tour. Using tools like FaceTime, you can experience a virtual home walk-through in real time. This way, you can uncover any blind spots in the original video and get access to more details.
· Make sure you have access to a floor plan so you can better determine how large a room is and how high the ceilings are.
Dive Into Disclosures
The seller disclosure should outline known problems with the structure of the house, along with the age of certain features and any improvements. Sometimes the details in these disclosures provide buyers with information that helps them decide whether to move forward or move on. If you’re considering a home based on the online listing, ask your real estate agent for the seller disclosure. Your agent can also help you examine the document.
Check Out The Neighborhood
To many people, the surrounding neighborhood is equally as important as the home. You can use the internet to find out what school zone the home is in and what restaurants, shopping centers, parks, etc. are in the area. You can also use Google Earth to visually explore the surrounding streets and areas.
Understand That You May Not Be Able To Visit A Home
Rules and regulations are changing regularly. Depending on where you live, it may not be legal to conduct in-person tours right now. Even if it’s legal where you live, many companies have launched temporary policies preventing in-person tours. Lastly, barring those circumstances, it may come down to the seller who, understandably, may not be comfortable with strangers in their home at this time.
If you’re set on seeing the home before you make a decision, you may have to wait. However, you can continue your online search so you’ll be ready to go once restrictions are loosened. To increase the likelihood of being able to view a home in person, it may be necessary to focus your search on new construction or vacant homes.
Alternatively, if you’re afraid the home you’ve found online will be sold to someone else before you have a chance to view it in person, you do have the option to buy the house sight unseen. This is a more risky option, but it happened frequently under certain circumstances even before the coronavirus. In those cases, it may be helpful to consult a real estate attorney.
Are you searching for a home right now? Blue Ridge Properties can help. Our real estate brokers and agents have thorough knowledge of the local real estate market and current regulations and are committed to ensuring your safety while helping you find your dream home. You can use our online tool to Find An Agent or call us at 423-247-4181 with any questions.