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The coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world for the better part of 2020 has created some unique challenges for Americans.
This is especially true for prospective home buyers, as the ability to visit and tour properties has been greatly restricted, if not halted altogether, due to shelter-in-place orders.
As home viewings become increasingly virtual for the foreseeable future, there are a number of tips prospective buyers must consider when shopping for real estate online.
#1 – Find Listings that Offer Self-Guided Tour Features
Buyers should have the same control in touring a home online as they do when perusing a home in person. If there is a room or specific location that the buyer wants to navigate in greater depth, they should have the ability to do so.
A quality online home listing will offer a 3D or 360-degree virtual tour as the main medium for the buyer to explore the property, with the ability to pause and zoom in at high definition in those areas that need to be examined more carefully.
While the expertise and opinion of a realtor can certainly be helpful, the buyer needs to beware of tours that direct him or her along a specific path, such as:
- Pre-recorded videos narrated by a realtor
- Tours held over video conference software that follows a realtor through a home
- Series of disconnected images that leave viewing gaps
These options should be secondary and take place only after the prospective buyer has had a chance to perform a thorough, self-paced 3D or 360-degree virtual tour.
#2 – Know the Appropriate Questions to Ask in Advance
Every prospective home buyer should strive to purchase a home with good bones–those essential features that are unfeasible or impossible to remodel.
Fortunately, good bones can be determined without ever seeing the house in person, if the buyer knows the right questions to ask:
- What is the construction of the foundation and framing? Is it one of the sturdy, energy-efficient concrete block homes, or is it made from more traditional wood-frame structures?
- How is the insulation? Is the roof lined with high-performance Polyiso panels?
- What is the home’s orientation? Which direction do the windows face in the home’s main living areas?
- What is the condition of the roof? What type of material is the roof made of?
- Is there evidence of pipe leaks? Are there sinkholes in the sidewalk or driveways or unexplained lush foliage?
#3 – Have a Keen Eye for Red Flags
There are a number of red flags that online home listings can raise. The buyer should be concerned with any of the following scenarios:
- Is the floor plan missing? This should be presented so that the buyer can compare to the rooms when doing a virtual tour.
- Is more time spent showing the exterior than the interior? This may be a case of a pretty face trying to cover up “bad bones.”
- Can you zoom in on the roof? A lot of roofing looks good from afar, with close-up views often necessary to confirm healthy roof shingles.
- Is a bathroom view focused only on the sink? This is a likely indication of an extremely small bathroom.
- Keywords such as “cozy,” “fixer-upper,” or “quaint” can have ambiguous meanings, so be sure to not take them at face value.
#4 – Be Ready to Wait on Closing
The global pandemic and accompanying financial crisis have seen mortgage interest rates plummet to historic lows.
As such, there has been a flood of homeowners rushing to refinance their current loans, causing the underwriting process to get backlogged for home buyers.
The typical closing period of 30 to 45 days has been stretched to in excess of 60 days in the current climate.
Have Questions or Need a Mortgage Loan?
Do you have questions about home loans? Are you ready to apply for a mortgage to buy a home? If so, Sammamish Mortgage can help. We are a local mortgage company from Bellevue, Washington serving the entire state, as well as Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado. We offer many mortgage programs to buyers all over the Pacific Northwest. Contact us today with any questions you have about mortgages.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.