Consumer Reports: Tips on buying a home during a pandemic

With record unemployment and a volatile stock market, we are living in uncertain economic times to say the least.

You might think buying a home would be the last thing you'd want to do, but is it? Consumer Reports explains with a little creativity and flexibility, this could be the right time to buy.

Seth and Renee Bellber had been talking about selling their home and buying something with more space and now, despite the pandemic, they've decided this is the time to hit the market.

"We just had been a little reluctant to pull the trigger, but after talking to our agent she had explained that now is as good a time as any," they said.

Consumer Reports said there may be some benefits to buying a home now.

"If you're secure in your job and you've got some savings it's actually not a bad time to buy. There are going to be opportunities that probably didn't exist even just a few months ago," said Paul Hope, Consumer Reports Home Editor.

The first benefit? Low interest rates. An average 30-year fixed mortgage rate this past April was just under 3.5%, the lowest on record since 1971. Remember that your credit score will dictate whether or not you can get the best possible rate.

Another benefit is lower competition. Mortgage applications have declined by 35% since the first week of March which may mean there are fewer buyers in the market right now.

"The irony is that the real estate market has been actually moving towards a sort of remote or digital experience for years. So skilled realtors can do things like go tour a house for you with their phone so you can really get a sense for the house before you even have to go inside," said Hope.

When it does come time to step foot into a home, follow local social distancing guidelines and avoid open houses. Have your realtor arrange a private showing just for you.

Consumer Reports said being flexible with a buyer can help you land a better deal. For example, accept a distant closing date, wait to have a home inspection until the seller is comfortable having people in their house, or even let them rent back the house from you until the quarantine ends.
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