Is It Safe To House Hunt During the Coronavirus Crisis? This Is What You Must Know

Is It Safe To House Hunt During the Coronavirus Crisis? This Is What You Must Know

By Margaret Heidenry

In the best of times, shopping for a house is a complicated and involved process—a big-ticket proposition involving lots of shopping around and meeting a ton of people so you’re 100% sure you’ve picked the right place, at the right price. But, of course, these are not the best of times.

Now that the coronavirus pandemic has people across the country hunkering down at home to lower their exposure levels, even the most determined home buyer might be wondering: Is it safe to shop for a house right now?

We’re here to help you navigate this time of uncertainty and instability with this second installment of our new series, “Home Buying in the Age of Coronavirus.”

While risk is a personal decision, the real estate industry is adapting to provide ways to go about home buying safely during the coronavirus pandemic. You can now do many things at a safe social distance, or even remotely, when it comes to buying a home that you may not have considered doing in the past.

Here are all the ways in-person checkpoints to buying a home have changed to keep you safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Finding the right real estate agent

When it comes to buying a home, pairing up with the right agent is always key to finding your perfect property. But today, you need one who is tech-savvy and comfortable conducting meetings and business online.

“Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other tools allow buyers to have consultations they would normally have in person with me from the comfort of their home,” says agent Maggie Wells of Keller Williams in Greater Lexington, KY.

To find an agent to further help you remotely, ask candidates if they offer virtual consultations and home tours. They should also be able to help you with e-signature apps so you can send and receive documents to sign digitally through email.

“If an agent doesn’t offer these services yet, I highly recommend finding an agent who is [comfortable] working with technology,” adds Wells.

Virtual home tours

Crowded open houses with a plate of cookies for everyone to grab are a thing of the past—at least for now. Instead, you’ve got virtual open houses and video tours.

There are several ways to virtually tour a home. Along with photos, many listings were already starting to incorporate videos or virtual reality tours. (For example, the listing for this house in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, features a VR icon you can click on, which will take you to a video.) You’ll be able to tour the home, room by room, without physically stepping onto the property.

“The power of video cannot be underestimated at a time like this,” says Cara Ameer, an agent with Coldwell Banker who is licensed in California and Florida.

However, these videos are filmed and edited, so you may not be able to see every nook and cranny. If you want to do a deeper dive, many agents will accommodate you.

“I’ve been giving live FaceTime tours of homes,” says Wells. “This provides buyers a personalized experience of the property without having to leave their home.”

Granted, we’re not necessarily saying you should buy a house without seeing it in person, unless there’s no choice in the matter. Nonetheless, it’s smart to do what you can remotely to whittle down your options so you can choose what’s worth an in-person visit, now or later.

Also keep in mind that in late March, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared residential real estate sales an “essential service,” although certain state officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have explicitly forbidden home showings. And even if they are allowed, agents, home sellers, and buyers must all be willing to make them happen.

When in doubt, check with your agent and local government for more information, and know that things could change as this pandemic progresses.

Remote mortgage pre-approval

“One smart way to stay safe right now is to work with a loan officer who is set up to work remotely,” says Andrina Valdes, executive sales leader and chief operating officer of Cornerstone Home Lending in San Antonio.

Some lenders had already made the entire mortgage process digital long before social distancing was needed. And now, many more have jumped on board out of necessity.

The first step is to interview a few loan officers over the phone or by video chat. Since mortgage interest rates are all over the map these days, it’s extremely important to shop around and compare what they’re offering—and make sure they’re comfortable conducting all steps of the transaction online.

Ideally you want a lender that allows you to track your loan progress, view educational resources, and stay in touch, all without leaving the house.

In order to get pre-approved for a loan, the lender will need to review your income, debt, credit history, and other factors—and you’ll need to submit paperwork verifying all of the above.

Luckily, most of this paperwork should be available online, such as pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements. If you’re unsure how to access them, a tech-savvy lender should be able to help. (Here’s more on the paperwork needed for mortgage pre-approval, and why getting pre-approved matters.)

Check out realtor.com/mortgage to find local lenders and to figure out how much home you can afford.

Remote home inspections

“We are offering clients the option of doing a remote inspection, where we inspect the house alone and review the findings with them via a videoconference,” says certified home Inspector Welmoed Sisson of Inspections by Bob in Maryland and author of “101 Things You Don’t Want in Your Home.”

At a remote home inspection, inspectors take a lot more pictures than they might have in the past so clients can get a good idea of where the issues are.

“We also take videos if the issue is something moving that shouldn’t, such as a loose handrail or wobbly toilet,” adds Sisson. “While we’re in the house, we use gloves, wash our hands, and wipe down things we touch with antiseptic cloths.”

Once the report is completed, Sisson sets up a video call and emails clients PDFs of background information about why inspectors test what they do.

“Through screen sharing, I go through a slideshow of the pictures, answering questions as we go,” says Sisson.

Virtual home appraisals

Home appraisals required by a lender generally include a site visit, which is not possible in some parts of the country where this is not considered an essential service. Luckily, appraisals pertain only to those getting loans, so cash buyers can skip this process entirely. But if you are getting a mortgage, fear not.

“In the last few weeks, we’ve seen an influx of virtual appraisals done via video as well as ‘desktop appraising,’ where the appraiser reviews available public and private data,” says Nikita Idiri, a licensed real estate salesperson at New York’s Elegran.

The appraiser then uses comparable properties for the reports. While these methods may not be to the penny in terms of value, they are relatively accurate and allow lenders to continue operating.

Remote home closings

In-person home closings—where all parties come together to sign contracts, swap keys, and shake hands—are, for the most part, not happening right now (especially the shaking hands part). However, most closings require some face-to-face interaction, since people have to sign documents and notaries need to stamp them in person.

So while home buyers will probably have to show up on closing day, it will look far different from the past.

Lynn “Ginger” Ruckman, real estate associate broker at Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Bronxville, NY, recently closed on a home at the buyer’s attorney’s office. But instead of everyone crowding into a room for hours, parties sat in separate rooms to finalize the deal.

“The sellers and I were in the reception area, and the buyers were in the conference room,” says Ruckman. “The title company shuffled papers back and forth, and the entire process took 23 minutes.”

Another agent in Ruckman’s office had a closing where all parties showed up on the street where one of the attorneys lived.

“Papers were delivered to the appropriate cars for signatures,” explains Ruckman. “Everyone had their own pen, and the intermediary wore gloves. It got done without a hitch.”

And soon closings may be entirely remote, with states such as Georgia announcing that, as of March 31, video closings are temporarily permissible.

“The approval just happened, so nobody has done it yet,” says Georgia attorney Ken Luther. “But this is my understanding of how it would work: The closing attorney would send links to all necessary parties for a secure videoconference. All parties would sign electronically, and the transaction would be witnessed and notarized by conference participants.”

I read this article HERE 

Got Real Estate Questions?   The Caton Team is here to help.

We strive to be more than just Realtors – we are also your home resource. If you have any real estate questions, concerns, need a referral or some guidance – we are here for you. Contact us at your convenience – we are but a call, text or click away!

The Caton Team believes, in order to be successful in the San Fransisco | Peninsula | Bay Area | Silicon Valley Real Estate Market we have to think and act differently. We do this by positioning our clients in the strongest light, representing them with the utmost integrity, while strategically maneuvering through negotiations and contracts. Together we make dreams come true.  How can The Caton Team help you?

A mother and daughter-in-law team with over 35 years of combined, local Real Estate experience and knowledge – would’t you like The Caton Team to represent you? Let us know how we can be of service. Contact us any time.

Call | Text | Sabrina 650.799.4333 | Susan 650.796.0654

Email |   Info@TheCatonTeam.com

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina
A Family of Realtors
Effective. Efficient. Responsive.
What can we do for you?

The Caton Team Testimonials | The Caton Team Blog – The Real Estate Beat | TheCatonTeam.com | Facebook | Instagram | HomeSnap | Pintrest | LinkedIN Sabrina | LinkedIN Susan

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  Mobile Real Estate by The Caton Team

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

DRE # |Sabrina 01413526 | Susan 01238225 | Team 70000218 |Office 01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts.  Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Third party information not verified.


 

Be Aware of Security Flaws During Your Next Video Call

Be Aware of Security Flaws During Your Next Video Call

 

While “zoombombing” poses a threat to those who are using the platform Zoom to work remotely, there are ways users can protect themselves.

Intruders are reportedly hijacking some video calls and posting hate speech and offensive images, such as pornography, during video meetings. That has prompted the FBI to warn about security glitches, including the potential for hackers to spy through a computer’s webcam or microphone.

Zoom has become increasingly popular as more Americans work from home. In March, Zoom says 200 million people used its app on a daily basis, up from 10 million in December.

On April 4, Zoom enabled new security settings that require a password for personal meeting IDs. Passwords are also now required when scheduling new meetings and webinars, instant meetings, and for participants joining by phone.

A recent Forbes article outlines key ways Zoom users can improve their security.

  • Make sure you have the latest version of Zoom installed, because the company has been adding new security updates. It’s also a good idea to make sure your operating system and browser are up to date.
  • “Never share the link or meeting ID on public platforms and try not to use the personal meeting ID–instead allow Zoom to generate a random ID for each meeting,” Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET, told Forbes.
  • Don’t share your meeting passwords publicly. Security researcher Sean Wright told Forbes that users should enable two-factor authentication for signing in.
  • For smaller group meetings, Zoom’s waiting room feature is an option, allowing hosts to screen everyone entering the meeting.
  • Users can also set parameters, such as allowing only the host to share their screen and disabling the file transfer feature.
  • Always scrutinize emails with links that purport to link to Zoom, because phishing scams may cause people to inadvertently download malware. “If users are ever suspicious, they should copy just the ID from the link provided and enter it in the official application to join,” Moore says.

Zoom has been increasing its security measures in response to concerns. It published a guide on how users can protect their meetings.

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan wrote in a blog post last week that the company is delaying working on new features so it can focus on fixing privacy and security problems. “We recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s—and our own—privacy and security expectations,” Yuan wrote. “For that, I am deeply sorry, and I want to share what we are doing about it.” Read his blog post.

Source: “A Must for Millions, Zoom Has a Dark Side—and an FBI Warning,” NPR (April 3, 2020); “Use Zoom? Here Are 7 Essential Steps You Can Take To Secure It,” Forbes (April 3, 2020)

I read this article HERE 

Got Real Estate Questions?   The Caton Team is here to help.

We strive to be more than just Realtors – we are also your home resource. If you have any real estate questions, concerns, need a referral or some guidance – we are here for you. Contact us at your convenience – we are but a call, text or click away!

The Caton Team believes, in order to be successful in the San Fransisco | Peninsula | Bay Area | Silicon Valley Real Estate Market we have to think and act differently. We do this by positioning our clients in the strongest light, representing them with the utmost integrity, while strategically maneuvering through negotiations and contracts. Together we make dreams come true.  How can The Caton Team help you?

A mother and daughter-in-law team with over 35 years of combined, local Real Estate experience and knowledge – would’t you like The Caton Team to represent you? Let us know how we can be of service. Contact us any time.

Call | Text | Sabrina 650.799.4333 | Susan 650.796.0654

Email |   Info@TheCatonTeam.com

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina
A Family of Realtors
Effective. Efficient. Responsive.
What can we do for you?

The Caton Team Testimonials | The Caton Team Blog – The Real Estate Beat | TheCatonTeam.com | Facebook | Instagram | HomeSnap | Pintrest | LinkedIN Sabrina | LinkedIN Susan

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  Mobile Real Estate by The Caton Team

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

DRE # |Sabrina 01413526 | Susan 01238225 | Team 70000218 |Office 01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts.  Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Third party information not verified.


 

4 Ways Coronavirus Could Impact Housing Long-Term

Hi Caton Team Friends, doing my part to stay educated and safe during this Shelter in Place.  I am reading as much as possible and will share articles here.  Thank you for reading! – The Caton Team

4 Ways Coronavirus Could Impact Housing Long-Term

The COVID-19 outbreak will undoubtedly have a long-lasting influence on Americans and the housing market moving forward. Housing analysts are already weighing in on what those changes could be.

In a new report, Apartment List highlights a few of the long-term changes they foresee coming from the COVID-19 pandemic:

Mobility will initially be low before spiking.

“Geographic mobility generally declines during downturns, when a lack of job opportunities catalyze fewer long-distance moves across market or housing upgrades,” the report notes. Evictions and foreclosure moratoriums will also help slow mobility. But housing analysts are predicting a spike in moves once the COVID-19 outbreak eases. “Many upgrade and downgrade moves will be postponed rather than canceled, creating a reshuffling of households throughout the recovery,” researchers note. The future wave will include those relocating for jobs, moves to be closer to family, and young adults forming their own households. Also, those who still hurt financially even after the pandemic lessens likely will need to move too.

Affordable housing is likely to become even more difficult to find.

Affordable rentals and homes for sale were already in short supply prior to the pandemic. “Fewer people moving means fewer homes available,” the report notes. “With both pandemic and policy keeping people in place, affordable units will become even more rare through the 2020 peak season.” Luxury apartment inventory, on the other hand, may be abundant.

Housing inequality could increase.

Higher earners will likely take advantage of low borrowing costs for refinancing to lower their payments as well as have more choices with the growing luxury rental inventory. On the other hand, lower-income households will likely struggle due to a sluggish economy and face increased competition for limited affordable housing. “As shelter-in-place orders cover a growing share of the nation, those who are able to work remotely are at a distinct economic advantage,” the report notes. “Unfortunately, a correlation between income and the ability to work from home reveals that the lowest earners will be hit hardest by these measures. Fifty-two percent of full-time workers who earn more than $100,000 annually say they can work from home. But only 15% of workers who earn less than $25,000 are able to work from home.”

Sight-unseen housing is likely to accelerate.

Some households may need to make a move sight unseen into their new home or apartment. “Many apartment communities are already enabling virtual tours in response to the pandemic, and many renters and owners alike may soon be evaluating their next home through a tablet screen,” the report notes. “Mainstream adoption of sight-unseen moves will bring both opportunities and challenges for the housing market.” In the rental market, sight-unseen transactions may prompt elevated levels of rental fraud, Apartment List notes.

I read this article HERE 

Got Real Estate Questions?   The Caton Team is here to help.

We strive to be more than just Realtors – we are also your home resource. If you have any real estate questions, concerns, need a referral or some guidance – we are here for you. Contact us at your convenience – we are but a call, text or click away!

The Caton Team believes, in order to be successful in the San Fransisco | Peninsula | Bay Area | Silicon Valley Real Estate Market we have to think and act differently. We do this by positioning our clients in the strongest light, representing them with the utmost integrity, while strategically maneuvering through negotiations and contracts. Together we make dreams come true.  How can The Caton Team help you?

A mother and daughter-in-law team with over 35 years of combined, local Real Estate experience and knowledge – would’t you like The Caton Team to represent you? Let us know how we can be of service. Contact us any time.

Call | Text | Sabrina 650.799.4333 | Susan 650.796.0654

Email |   Info@TheCatonTeam.com

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina
A Family of Realtors
Effective. Efficient. Responsive.
What can we do for you?

The Caton Team Testimonials | The Caton Team Blog – The Real Estate Beat | TheCatonTeam.com | Facebook | Instagram | HomeSnap | Pintrest | LinkedIN Sabrina | LinkedIN Susan

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  Mobile Real Estate by The Caton Team

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

DRE # |Sabrina 01413526 | Susan 01238225 | Team 70000218 |Office 01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts.  Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Third party information not verified.