Homebuying is hot right now. Chalk it up to renter fatigue and cabin fever thanks to COVID-19 or historically low interest rates — but buyers are coming out of the woodwork. And after feeling corralled, whether in a home or an apartment, for the first half of 2020 (and still going), who hasn’t at least daydreamed about getting into some new digs?
What buyers want
HomeLight’s top agents insights reported that 44 percent of buyers are looking for more space, 41 percent want to buy rather than rent, and 37 percent want to get out of urban areas in favor of the suburbs. They seek top features such as a designated home office (17 percent), less populated locations (16 percent), single-family dwellings (15 percent), private outdoor spaces (15 percent) and a well-appointed kitchen (11 percent). Trailing on the list are private pools, access to nature, designated home workout space and dual primary suites.
There’s a lot to consider — quickly — as homes on the market are selling fast. At 20 days on market, Zillow has reported that homes are selling at the fastest rate the home search portal has ever recorded. The quickness of sale results in fewer price cuts, rising home prices and an uber competitive market for homebuyers.
Competition heats up
There are several factors for being able to create a competitive offer that will win you the bid when you find “the one.” A solid down payment is one. Having that money ensures sellers that you’re a strong candidate, and it gets buyers better loan terms. However, as reported by Unison’s Home Affordability Report, the nationwide average to save for a 20 percent down payment toward the median-priced home on a median income is about 14 years.
But don’t fret if you don’t have that kind of money stashed away. There are plenty of first-time buyer programs that offer down payment assistance.
Another factor agents are seeing in the market as bidding wars increase with competition is foregoing the home inspection contingency. According to Redfin, in June, nearly 20 percent of successful home purchase offers submitted by the brokerage’s agents in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Boston and Portland waived inspection contingencies. Although fewer contingencies create a stronger offer, it’s also risky to buy a home without getting a full picture of the internal workings of it.
This snapshot of COVID-19 market happenings shows exactly why it’s crucial to have someone in your corner who knows your market inside and out to help you find the home that’s right for you — and be able to purchase it.
How do you find an agent?
Probably the easiest way to find an agent is to go with that agent a friend or relative used. But how do you know if he or she is going to have your best interests at heart and if he or she is well-practiced? Another option is to find an agent by calling around.
But perhaps the most straight-forward way to find an agent who you know is a top agent in your market is to use a service such as HomeLight. HomeLight screens and recommends the top agents in your area and matches them to your personalized needs.
Now that you have a little perspective on what’s going on in the market, make sure to do your due diligence and ask the important questions. Here is a list of 24 questions to use to interview agents with in regular times, but in COVID times, it doesn’t hurt to ask questions about personal protective equipment (PPE), showing procedures, their own procedures and any other concerns you might have. In addition to interviewing the agent, be sure to do your own independent research, such as googling and checking out his or her social media.
When you find the right agent for you, he or she will be able to walk you through all of the ins and outs of the buying process, help you find a lender if you don’t have one already, and provide you with first-time homebuyer tips that you’ll find to be invaluable, especially in this unusual year.