Buying a home is an exciting milestone that most people strive to accomplish. However, the pandemic caused many of those with homeownership in sight to shift their priorities and reconsider buying. While COVID-19 drove down interest rates to historic lows, it also caused a dip in employment rates and financial confidence, making it more difficult for first-time buyers to save for the home of their dreams.
Despite financial and health concerns, there are ways prospective buyers can safely achieve homeownership in 2021. However, they should also expect a non-traditional buying experience. Here are three ways the pandemic has transformed the house-hunting experience for first-time homebuyers:
Down Payment Assistance
Down payment assistance programs have always played an important role in making homeownership more feasible for first-time buyers. A down payment is one of the most common hurdles for buyers, which is why both government agencies and private organizations offer assistance in the form of grants, loans, and other various programs to help qualified individuals achieve homeownership.
Especially during the pandemic, first-time buyers will want to understand their home financing options. Fortunately, only 1.5% of programs have been suspended due to COVID-19 and all Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs) have remained open. Affordable financing options for first-time buyers like low-down payment loans insured by the FHA are still available as well. Though, they should note that some of the requirements for these options have changed, so they’ll need to ensure they still meet the qualifications.
Homebuyer education courses teach you valuable concepts like closing costs, debt ratios, and fair housing rules, to help you prepare for your house hunt. In the past, these classes have been offered both in person and online. However, with social distancing and COVID restrictions still in play, first-time buyers may want to explore what options are available to them online.
Having the right information is crucial when making any financial decision and especially when it comes to buying a home. Fortunately, realtors typically have a resourceful blog you can peruse for important information related to the buying process. Potential buyers can also ask their agent or lender for recommendations for online courses to learn more about home buying concepts.
Becoming a homeowner is no small feat and buyers often want to scrutinize properties before closing on a home. Open houses have always played a critical role in a buyer’s decision to submit an offer. In light of COVID-19, many realtors shifted to virtual home tours to continue showing properties while also abiding by social distancing regulations. Virtual tours can save you time and allow you to view features in the house at a safe distance. Take a look at our virtual home buying tips to learn more about our process at Century 21 North East. Interested in viewing homes with virtual tours? Click here to view our Homes With Virtual Tours recommended searches.
With the vaccination rollout, more buyers are now able to view properties in-person by appointment. However, sellers should still be aware of any local restrictions and take necessary precautions to make sure both the buyer and seller feel comfortable. Walkthroughs may also be limited to a certain number of family members, and proper personal protective equipment like face masks and hand sanitizer may be required to view properties.
If you have dreams of becoming a first-time homeowner in 2021, you still can. Knowing what to expect ahead of your house hunt will help ensure a smooth buying and moving experience.