If you were planning on buying a home before the pandemic, you might feel like that goal is now out of reach. However, people still looking to buy a house can take some steps to reduce risks. Although it requires a bit of extra thought, safely viewing homes is possible. In fact, if you have the financial ability to do so right now, it could be a great time to buy a home with interest rates dropping to new lows.
Follow these tips to safely view a house during the coronavirus pandemic without putting your health at risk.
1. Choose a good realtor
The first thing to consider when planning on viewing a home is to make sure you choose a good realtor. Your realtor should have a good understanding of the best hygiene and sanitation practices when showing homes. Realtors should be sanitizing homes before and after showings, and they shouldn't be holding open houses or viewings that gather large groups of people.
You’ll also want to make sure the realtor is comfortable using technology. This will come in handy when more traditional methods of viewing and buying a house may not be possible. Do they have the right tools or know how to ensure you can be given virtual tour of the home? These are all important factors to consider before choosing your realtor. Technology issues are the last thing you need when you're buying a home.
2. Take advantage of virtual showings
Realtors across the country are now offering virtual home tours in place of open houses and live showings.
Virtual showings and tours are a great way to get a first impression of the homes you're interested in. Although most listings have a collection of high-quality and even 360-degree images to showcase the home's best features, a virtual showing can be a way to get an in-depth look at the property you're interested in beyond what you can see in pictures. While you may still want to see the home in-person before you make the final decision, agreeing to a virtual showing first can help you narrow down your list of potential homes to the ones you're truly interested in.
Ask your realtor what kind of virtual options they offer. Some real estate agencies are pre-recording tours of the home. Others are offering live tours where you can walk through the home with your realtor on a video call. The live tour might be a better option if you want to know more about specific features. You can also use this opportunity to get a closer look at the important details that might not be easy to see in the photos, like crown molding or natural lighting.
3. Don't shake hands with your realtor
Although virtual showings are useful in keeping the number of houses you need to visit to a minimum, there may come a point when you view houses in person. Some people may be reluctant to make an important decision like purchasing a home without seeing what they're buying. So how can you keep yourself safe while viewing homes in person?
Social distancing guidelines recommend people stay at least 6 feet away from one another and refrain from greeting each other with handshakes, hugs or any other form of physical contact. This, of course, applies to you and your realtor as well. Although the professional instinct to greet someone with a handshake is completely understandable, it's best not to put your or your realtor's health at risk. Greet one another from a safe distance instead.
If it makes you feel more comfortable, let your realtor know beforehand that you won't be shaking their hand. That way, you can ensure you’re both on the same page. And you won't have to face the awkwardness of turning down their handshake when you see them.
4. Wear a mask
Even if you're not having physical contact with your realtor, it's still a good idea for both of you to wear a mask or face coverings to your showing.
You may find that your realtor arrives at the showing wearing a branded mask, which some agencies have started offering. Call your realtor before your appointment and ask if they'll supply disposable masks at the showing. If not, make sure to bring your own. In any case, a good realtor should be amenable to your requests, including wearing a mask.
5. Try not to touch surfaces
When walking through a home for the first time, it's tempting to run your fingers along surfaces to get a feel for them. The countertops, the banister and the doorknobs are all examples of items you may instinctively touch. Although your realtor should ensure all surfaces in the home are sanitized, there are things you can do to avoid making contact with surfaces.
Avoid touching surfaces in your potential new home unless you absolutely have to. If you need to touch something to make sure it's sturdy or well-built, like a shelf or a door, try using your elbow instead of your hands. Disposable gloves may also be used to get a sense for what surfaces feel like without touching them with your skin. For example, if it's important to you to check the water pressure in the showers, use gloves if you can't turn the knobs with your elbow.
If getting a literal feel for the textures of the different surfaces in a home is very important to you, then bring along some disinfectant and hand sanitizer to make sure you can do so and keep yourself safe.
6. Tour the neighborhood safely
When it comes to buying a home, the neighborhood it's in matters just as much as the home itself. If you want to tour the neighborhood before buying a house, make sure you do so safely. Social distancing guidelines vary from place to place, so do some research beforehand, especially if you're looking at homes in a new city or state. Your realtor might be the first person you want to ask for this type of information.
If you have access to a car, this is one of the safest ways to travel to your showing and get a feel for the area during the pandemic. Even though you won't be able to experience the walkability of the neighborhood in a car, you can get a feel for where things are located and how you might feel walking around.
If you don't have access to a car, or simply prefer to walk or bike, make sure you do so safely by wearing a mask and maintaining a distance of six feet from your potential new neighbors.
7. Get prequalified for a home loan
In order to reduce the amount of home viewers to serious-buyers only, many realtors are only accepting viewing appointments from buyers who've already been prequalified for a home loan. This can help lower their risk of exposure by not showing a home to people who aren't serious about making a purchase.
Speak to a Home Lending Advisor to find out more about how homes are being viewed and purchased during these unfamiliar times. You can also find out more about how to prequalify for one of our many mortgage options.