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The Tea On Refinancing, Managing Your Mortgage & Buying Your First Home During A Pandemic

August 7, 2020 | Charmin Michelle

Ladies, it is homebuying season! it? Currently, housing prices are stagnant and have even increased in some cases, considering we're all sitting in the face of a potential economic shutdown in the midst of a global pandemic. And on the upswing, interest rates are near all-time lows—with potential to go even lower.

But unfortunately, employment, which has been a roller coaster since March, remains a big question mark. And according to researchers, with thousands of housing inventory being withdrawn from the market during the shutdown, prices may soar, lowering affordability.

So, should you buy a home during the COVID-19 pandemic? Should you refinance? What's the best advice for the times? To help answer a few of our biggest questions, I decided to link with a few frontline real estate agents to get the best brewed tea for the market. This is what I found out.

Karissa McRae, Serving Atlanta, GA / Baltimore, MD

Courtesy of Karissa McRae

Industry Specialty: First-Time Home Buyers Contact: Instagram: @karissarealtor

Homebuying Hack:

"Your earnest money, closing date, and the due diligence period, are all pertinent in securing a deal of excellence.

While there are several other factors that contribute to a successful accepted contract, these are components buyers should consider during negotiations."

I appreciate my clients greatly, which is why I ensure that I'm on top of trends, news, updates, etc. to be able to provide them with the best advising possible. The more I've become seasoned in the industry, the more I've learned that knowledge of this game. This industry has a lot of to do with managing application of knowledge when appropriate. On the surface of things, selling a house appears to be as simple as selling a product. However, I am not in the business of just selling a home. I am in the business of navigating, assisting and driving results. The more knowledge you have to drive those results, the better chances you have of closing the deal.

Ask your realtor thousands of questions,

and make sure that they are providing insight as well.

During this COVID-19 crisis, there are many advantages and disadvantages of purchasing a home. For one, there are lower interest rates. Also, when sourcing income, stimulus checks can be used toward the purchase of a home. Disadvantages? Uncertainty. We're not sure how long interest rates will remain what they currently reflect and the manner in which many homes can be shown. Some homes require virtual showings only until the home is under contract. This may be a disadvantage if the buyer is eager to view the home physically within a specific period of time.

My top three pandemic real estate tips:

  • If you love it, put an offer in. While you want to ensure you are completely comfortable and love the home, you also want to ensure you are getting your offer in within a timely manner.

  • Ensure your offers are strong. Making sure you have a strong offer can mean the difference between the seller selecting yours vs. another buyer. A strong offer can include, but isn’t limited to, the closing date, sellers concessions, financing type, etc. You should consult with a licensed Realtor regarding which.

  • Ensure you are protected with contingencies. There are contingencies that can be written in the contract to protect you due to unexpected losses during this pandemic. Consult with a licensed Realtor regarding contingencies such as an appraisal, financing and COVID-19 contingency during this time.

For my current homeowners, the question remains: should you refinance? Yes. It's a great time to refinance now due to lower interest rates. However, a common misconception is that refinancing does not cost. Refinancing can cost about 2%-6% of the loan amount. Either way, now is your time. So, go for it!

Leann Henri, Serving Michigan—Detroit, SE Region

Courtesy of Leann Henri

Industry Specialty: First-Time Home Buyers, Selling & Relocating, Millennial Buyers & Sellers Contact: Instagram: @leann_henri

Homebuying hack:

"Find a down payment assistance program—there are so many available! Some of them are even grants that you don't have to pay back. If you don't have to use your own money to buy a home, why would you?"

It's no secret we're in a pretty substantial housing shortage in the US. Couple that with a global pandemic and you've got a recipe that spells complete and utter frustration for eager buyers to find homes. A major disadvantage is the competition between buyers for existing homes currently listed on the market. I submitted an offer on a home last week and the agent told me they have 22 other offers! EX-CUSE ME?!

Not to mention, some of these agents are reckless in advising buyers to waive inspections, put in outrageous appraisal guarantees, and submitting offers thousands upon thousands of dollars over asking. Many people can't compete with that, and honestly I would never advise my clients to do such a thing. The right home will come along and I always tell them, "What's for you will not pass you by." On the cloud-covered bright side (I say "cloud-covered" because these low rates are largely fueled by the pandemic), there are still fears of new coronavirus outbreaks affecting the economy, meaning rates will probably stay low for quite some time to incentivize buyers and sellers to make a move.

And that's always a good thing.

If you are looking to refinance, absolutely do so! Rates are at record lows right now. Money is so cheap, it's basically free. Why pay "them" more money to borrow their money than what you have to? Oftentimes people sign a mortgage and don't look at the details again until they're planning to sell, which is terrible! Usually a person's financial status when they first bought their home, changes over time. You could qualify for many more perks, the key is to just ask. Even if you refinance and only save an additional $150/month on your mortgage - that's $150 extra dollars a month to go towards another bill, savings, investments, or put it right back on your principal mortgage balance to pay down your loan faster and save in interest over time.

The goal is to pay them back as quickly and efficiently as possible so you can start building wealth. Of course, I always strongly suggest consulting with a qualified mortgage lender about the pros and cons of refinancing for your particular situation.

For those interested in a COVID-19's buyer market, here are my immediate tips:

  • Analyze your finances. If you can't afford it, don't force it.

  • Stay encouraged. It's a jungle with low inventory and high competition.

  • Don't pick a random Realtor. Interview as many as you need to find one that you trust and that truly has your best interest at heart.

Since the start of the pandemic, what I've always believed about real estate has been cemented. Good morals, staying ahead of the curve, and real authentic interactions will always win. My business has grown so much during this pandemic and every time I ask a client why they chose me, the answers are always along the same lines: they felt well-informed from the very beginning, my social media or my YouTube channel made them feel like they could relate to me, and I actually ANSWERED THE PHONE! People let chasing a dollar get in the way of really truly caring for your neighbor and I believe that will separate the successes from the one-hit wonders.

Claudia Garcia, Serving Illinois—Chicagoland

Courtesy of Claudia Garcia

Industry Specialty: First-Time Home Buyers, Buyers, Sellers, and Leasing Contact: Instagram: @claudiasellschicago

Homeowner hack:

"Make biweekly mortgage payments to pay off your mortgage quicker. You're basically breaking down your monthly mortgage in half every two weeks, (there are 26 biweekly periods in a year) which has the equivalence of making one extra monthly mortgage payment every year."

Ladies, buying a home is definitely one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever make! COVID-19 may have put some strains on us, but what better time than now to begin preparing ourselves? A lot of individuals assume that they can't purchase a home considering the times, but they haven't taken the initiative to actually see if that's the case; there actually isn't a better time than now to purchase.

While some mortgage companies may have tightened up their requirements, interest rates have been dropping. And people whom are already homeowners that are locked in at higher rates have—and should have—been looking into refinancing that the low interest rates institutions are offering (rates have recently dropped below 3%).

Agents are noticing that many people believed that the market was going to crash, but this totally hasn't been the case at all (thus far). Yes, new home listings decreased in late March, at peak hysteria of COVID-19, but listings have started to pick up in late June, early July. Just know that we are in a buyer's market right now: there are more buyers looking to purchase homes than homes listed on the market, which in turn, has created a multiple-offer scenario for certain properties/sellers (and creates disadvantages for some buyers).

My top homebuying tips are:

  • Talk to a loan officer first. People automatically think or assume they are not qualified to purchase a home, for whatever reason, but they have never actually talked to a loan officer to see what exactly it is that they need to prepare themselves for purchasing a home.

  • Save every dollar that you can right now. Why else wouldn't you be saving during quarantine? Create a budget, cut costs, and spend less, so that you're prepared for closing time, as well as just establishing rainy day funds.

  • Educate yourself as much as you can about the homebuying process. And then find and work with an experienced and trustworthy realtor.

Real estate is a continuous changing market, and a never-ending learning career. I've even taken advantage of this time to learn and educate myself even more in the field by enrolling in different certifications and designations so that I can provide the best experience I can for my clients.

And for all my homeowners, I hope you're researching the best options for your possible purchasing/selling journey as well. It's a great time to do so, so why not?

Marly Walters, Serving Florida—Southern Region

Courtesy of Marly Waters

Industry Specialty: First-Time Home Buyers, Buyers, Sellers, and Leasing Contact: Instagram: @marlyrealestate

Homebuying Hack:

"During the inspection period, you can ask the seller to make additional repairs, or ask for a seller credit at closing to make repairs after closing. In Florida, the high majority of offers use the approved AS IS with the right to inspect standard contract. So, even though you are purchasing the property as is, you can use the inspection as a second chance to negotiate the sales price or credits."

I had a client once that got very sick only a year after I helped him purchase his dream home. Even though I offer many listing services that other agents don't offer, typically getting the home cleaned and show-ready, meeting with multiple contractors for repair bids, and arranging storage and movers, are the responsibility of the seller. However, he did not have any local family and I knew he was not going to be physically able to handle any of these tasks so I made sure that I personally took them on. I was able to sell the home over list price and net him enough so that he still had funds to downsize and purchase a new property. For me, that's what being a realtor is all about.

As we've already mentioned, the biggest advantage in our industry during the pandemic is that interest rates are at historic lows.

So, the same home you could not afford a year ago, you might be approved to purchase today because a lower interest rate increases your monthly affordability amount. This also means that in a lot of markets, it's a hot seller's season. There's a home inventory shortage, meaning that for the smaller number of available homes, there is more competition, increasing the likelihood of you running into a multiple-offer situation, and ultimately driving up sales prices.

My three tips are these:

  • Look for homes that have been on the market for 60+ days if you are looking for a deal.

  • Be comfortable with going virtual (virtual property tours, electronically signing documents, etc.).

  • Work with an experienced buyer's agent that will know how to negotiate well on your behalf and can save you from the pitfalls of a transaction.

I used to think that you had to have your hands in a lot of different lead generation pots in order to be successful in this business. However, as I grow in the business, I now understand that focusing on a few things, doing them very well, and putting the attention on building long-term relationships with clients is more important than building a big volume of leads. When you are laser-focused on your strengths and your clients, the success will come.

This piece originally appeared on xoNecole.

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