With the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing norms, this may not be the ideal time to invest in a new home. But, changing life situations may place you in a position where you absolutely need to move. You could have a new job or expect the arrival of a new family member. Or, you might need the extra space for an elderly relative who can no longer live alone. If you’re worried about going out to look for the right property, know that staying safe and finding the ideal home for your needs is now possible with the help of modern house-hunting technology. Here are some of the digital tools you can use.
1. Use Online Tools like Google Maps to Check Neighborhoods
Start your search using tools like Google Maps, Zillow, Apartments, and Trulia. These sites give you an overview of the homes available for purchase or rent. You can also tour the community virtually for the neighborhood’s overall feel and the availability of amenities like shopping, good schools, parks and playgrounds, transportation, and restaurants and diners. Walkability and biking scores, safety and crime rates, and parking space provisions are other details you can get using technology in house shopping.
2. Get in Touch with an Experienced Realtor
Once you find a few options that may be suitable, you’ll connect with a realtor who is familiar with the applicable regulations in the area where you intend to move. Ask about the possibility of touring the property over Zoom, Facetime, or any other video calling apps. Check if the agents would be open to providing detailed 3D images and answering your questions. The realtor may also direct you to videos uploaded by the house owners.
You can talk about requirements with the realtor, such as the estimated square footage you need, location, number of bedrooms and baths, walk-in closets, hardwood floors, and yard. Do talk about features that are potential deal breakers so that the agent can narrow down options before contacting you with possible deals.
3. Apply for Mortgage Pre-Approval
Getting pre-approval for a mortgage reassures sellers that you qualify for a loan and arrange for the necessary finance. You’ll consult with a bank or mortgage provider who’ll give you an overview of the maximum amount you can borrow. This figure will help you set a price range you can afford. To apply for pre-approval, you’ll provide information like proof of assets and income, verification of long-term employment, and any other documents they need.
The lenders may conduct credit score inquiries and check debt-to-income ratios. Because of the pandemic, sellers may be more inclined to allow walk-throughs to buyers who can prove they can afford to put up an offer. And, yes! You can apply for pre-approval online. Many lenders now accept applications completed and submitted on smartphone apps.
4. Put Up an Offer
It is not unusual for buyers to place an offer before seeing the house in person. You could be busy working long hours or prefer to buy the place quickly to avoid losing out in a competitive market. Expect to pay a due diligence fee that may range from $500 to $2,000. This cost is non-refundable, but you can negotiate for a lower fee. You’ll also pay the earnest money, typically around 2% to 3% of the purchase price. Having put up the earnest money, you’ll have time to do the necessary research into the suitability of the property. In case you change your mind about the purchase, you can opt out of the contract and get back the earnest amount.
5. Closing the Deal Remotely
Once you finalize the purchase, the realtor will help you prepare the necessary paperwork and other documentation. The E-Sign Act of 2000 permits you to enter into legally binding agreements digitally by signing documents in the presence of an e-notary. Anyone can become an online notary, including your realtor, though the particular agent assisting the sale cannot act as the official overseeing the transaction. They can, however, guide you with drawing up the Deed of Absolute Sale, property deed, mortgage closing documents, and any other paperwork related to the purchase.
Maintaining social distancing and staying safe during the pandemic need not delay your plans to move. Using technology in house shopping can make it possible for you to scout around properties and buy the best home suitable for your needs.