Buying a home during the coronavirus pandemic 

From virtual home tours to COVID-19 contract clauses, here’s
how homebuying is changing

The novel
coronavirus pandemic
has resulted in a seismic shift in daily
life across the U.S. But even faced with
stay-at-home orders
, some of which may last for months,
Americans are still looking for, buying, and moving to new
places.

For some, the pandemic
interrupted a planned homebuying search
, while others who
didn’t expect to be in the market for a new home are now moving
because they’ve lost a job or need to care for a family member
who lives elsewhere.

Buying a home right now is made more daunting by a
volatile stock market
,
historic unemployment
, and fears of a widespread recession.
Buyers who were hoping to enter the market this
spring—traditionally the busiest season—are wondering what
homebuying will look like later in the month, as spring turns to
summer, or even in the next year. Factor in the logistics of making
the biggest purchase of your life while maintaining
strict social-distancing practices
, and the process seems
downright impossible.

We set out to discover what it looks like to buy a home in seven
American cities right now. We collected first-hand advice from
industry professionals about the entire homebuying process—from

virtual home tours
to COVID-19 contract clauses to how the
closing process has changed. And we also considered the big-picture
questions:
how coronavirus is impacting the housing market overall
, what
to do if you’re worried about
paying your mortgage
, and whether a pandemic-caused recession
might help some families
finally afford a house
.

What we found is a residential real estate market that looks
very different depending on the city. It’s a complex situation
that’s changing not just by the day or week, but by the hour,
which is why we’ll be updating our stories regularly. Uncertainty
will define every aspect of American life over the next year, but
this collection of stories can guide you—whether you’re trying
to find a new home or working hard to stay
where you live now
. —Megan Barber


The economy is grinding to a halt. Will the housing market
follow?

Historically low inventory and rock-bottom mortgage rates would
normally set the stage for a highly competitive spring season. But
the coronavirus pandemic is making life and markets anything but
normal, prompting the question: Will COVID-19 cause the housing
market to collapse, as it did during the financial crisis in
2008?


Atlanta

With an inventory shortage and a healthy pool of buyers, the
pandemic in Atlanta is causing more of a temporary slowdown than a
Great Recession-like slump. Property viewings may be down, but
“our market isn’t frozen,” says Jennifer Pino, president of
Atlanta Realtors Association. “I haven’t left my house, and
we’ve been able to keep business going.”


Boston

Despite the current uncertainty in the Boston real estate
market, any gains for buyers—whether in the form of lower prices,
fewer bidding wars, or less competition—could prove fleeting.
Still, prices are coming down (slightly), and buyers who are
willing to navigate virtual home showings may have a bit more
leverage than in the past.


Chicago

Sellers are feeling the impact of the novel coronavirus in
Chicago, and many potential listings have been put on hold while
shelter-in-place orders are in effect. The pandemic has created a
“temporary buyer’s market,” says Annie Coleman, managing
broker of Living Room Realty, but there’s no telling how long it
will last.


Detroit

While it’s still possible to buy or sell a home in Detroit,
the coronavirus pandemic has made it considerably harder. The
housing market is essentially on pause, with few new homes coming
to market. From COVID-19 contract clauses to Zoom home tours, our
experts explain what’s happening.


Los Angeles

With millions of Californians suddenly out of work and a steady
stream of paychecks drying up, the typically vigorous spring real
estate market has been reduced to a simmer. Read on for details on
how Angelenos are viewing homes, making offers, and navigating
stricter mortgage requirements.


New York

As the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., New York has seen
its real estate market grind to a halt. Inventory has dropped
dramatically, but home prices haven’t declined—yet. “People
still have the desire to purchase and sell,” says Bess Freedman,
CEO of Brown Harris Stevens. “They’re just waiting for when
they can.”


San Francisco

In a city known for all-cash offers, the changes in San
Francisco have been swift. “Since the shelter-in-place order was
first initiated, the market nearly overnight shifted to a buyer’s
market,” says Justin Fichelson, a San Francisco-based Realtor.
“Sellers by and large have had to decide to either remove their
listing … or to adjust their price expectations.”

Editorial lead: Megan Barber
Writers: Tom Acitelli, Jeff Andrews, Megan Barber,
Jenna Chandler, Sara Freund, Josh Green, Brock Keeling, Aaron
Mondry, Amy Plitt, Cindy Widner
Editors: Megan Barber, Mariam Aldhahi, Sara
Polsky, Mercedes Kraus
Project management: Megan Barber, Nina
Pearlman
Art direction: Alyssa Nassner
Photo direction: Audrey Levine
Engagement: Jessica Gatdula, Stephanie Griffin,
Sharell Jeffrey
Special thanks: Jill Dehnert, Kelsey Keith

Source: FS – All – Architecture 10
Buying a home during the coronavirus pandemic