The global coronavirus pandemic has affected life across the globe, especially here in New England and with the Boston real estate market. Strict social distancing measures, school closures, and, in many locales, a ban on all non-essential businesses have turned people’s lives upside down and thrust us into a surreal existence where we’re spending nearly all of our time at home. Thankfully, the weather has been relatively mild in Massachusetts, allowing many of us to open our windows, get some yard work done, and go for walks and hikes while remaining 6 feet apart from one another.
From a Boston real estate perspective, it would be disingenuous to say that nothing has changed, because a lot has! At NextHome Titletown Real Estate, we have been finishing up transcations that started prior to the shut down, and mostly everything is going forward as expected (with some modifications, such as maintaining social distance during closings and final walk-throughs, and hosting client meetings over video conference).
All indications thus far are showing strength in the Boston real estate market, and currently there is no indication that we’re headed toward a housing crisis like the once-in-a-century 2008 collapse. The fundamentals of the housing market remain in place, especially in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and nearby communities, despite the safety precautions enforced by health and government officials.
But we’re headed toward a much different 2020 real estate market than we had predicted coming into the year. Here are a few things that have changed, and others that we expect to remain the same.
1. ACCESS TO SHOWINGS
In many places, the process of showing a home has changed. As states and local municipalities put limits on the number of people allowed to gather in one place, open houses are shifting more toward virtual showings for now.
Additionally, sellers, buyers, and agents are taking more precautions to keep themselves safe, with more cleaning and disinfecting, access to protective gear, and enforced social distancing measures now the norm in Massachusetts. Digital-only showings are also growing in popularity, although they’re still relatively new and not perfect (you can’t smell the new construction…or mildew problems with a virtual showing).
2. THE CLOSING PROCESS
Much of the work that needs to be done between going under contract to sell or buy a house and the closing can be done remotely and electronically, but in Massachusetts, attorneys are still meeting home buyers in person for the closing because all-digital closings are not allowed in Massachusetts.
But there are many things that need to be done by many people throughout the process. From the mortgage, to the title work, to inspections and appraisals, getting to the closing table depends upon a lot of people doing their jobs.
Social distancing and working entirely remotely has a certain learning curve while everyone involved figures out how to get their end of things done. So, the process may take at least a little longer and evolve as everyone figures out the best way to handle things. The upshot to this is that it could create better, more efficient ways of doing things moving forward.
3. SOME MORTGAGE PRODUCTS
Perhaps the most impactful changes in the real estate industry are happening in the mortgage markets. The conditions on certain products are being tightened, some banks are requiring higher down payments, and some lenders are temporarily exiting the market altogether. Jumbo loans (a type of financing where the loan amount is higher than the conforming loan limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency) seem to be feeling the most impact, while conventional loans, which are considered less risky, have been less affected.
If you have questions about getting pre-approved, you should contact a mortgage professional who can help you better understand your options. We can help you locate a response and reputable mortgage broker or financing expert and one of the lending institutions with whom we have worked regularly in the past.
What hasn’t changed:
1. PEOPLE’S DREAMS
Even when the whole world comes to a stop, our hearts and minds do not. We all have dreams, whether it’s owning a fabulous condo in Southie or the Back Bay, a sprawling victorian with a rolling lawn in Jamaica Plain or Dorchester, or a starter home in Malden or Everett that you can finally call your own. The coronavirus pandemic doesn’t change that, even though it can help put things in perspective and remind us of what matters most. But don’t let the strange times we’re in stop you from daydreaming and working toward those goals. The coronavirus pandemic as we know it now is temporary, but our aspirations are not.
2. HOUSING DEMAND THROUGHOUT GREATER BOSTON
There’s been a well-documented housing shortage for years across the country, and there’s no indication that the fundamentals have yet changed. Here in Massachusetts, our diversified economy and dearth of open, buildable land anywhere remotely close to Boston make for a continued housing crunch that adds upward pressure to rents and property values unlike few areas in the United States. People always need homes, despite a pandemic (arguably….BECAUSE of a pandemic, since we’re all being asked to stay home these days!) So, if you want to sell, there’s likely multiple buyers for your home. And if you want to buy, there’s definitely a seller who’d love to sell (along with many other buyers with whom you will be competing over price!)
3. OUR DESIRE TO HELP YOU
Most agents eat, breathe, and sleep real estate, and at NextHome Titletown Real Estate, aside from looking out for our loved ones and wishing for a healthy and safe resolution to this mess, that hasn’t changed. We want to help you with your real estate needs because we’re passionate about what we do, and it’s likely that your newfound home-time has coincided with a lot more real estate research than it has with cleaning or binge-watching Tiger King.
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