How I did it: Buying a house during COVID-19

The home buying process looks a bit different during COVID-19. Here is one consumer’s story about navigating it for the first time.

Tags: Home, Home buying, Mortgage, COVID-19
Published: November 23, 2021

“How I Did It” features real stories about achieving goals through financial planning and preparedness.

As the COVID-19 situation began to develop, Emily Den Boer had just begun the process of searching for her first home to buy. While she didn’t anticipate the journey to be without its hiccups, she certainly didn’t imagine it would take place during such an unprecedented time.

“We knew we were walking into one of the hottest real estate markets in years,” Emily says. “We waited through the winter for listings to start to populate in spring, and then of course, COVID-19 began and things in the market really changed.”


An unexpected shift in the market

While spring is typically the time for increased house listings (especially in Minnesota, where Emily is looking to purchase), COVID-19 changed the landscape of the market. The number of new listings was trickling in, and their realtor relayed that listings were 20-30% down year over year.

“Something interesting our realtor told us was that the window shoppers had left the market, but the motivated buyers were still there. Whether their lease was up, they were relocating, or had sold their other home, they were still looking with a sense of urgency. At the end of the day, the market still seems ‘hot’ because those buyers were still aggressively looking and inventory is low,” says Emily.

Another tricky aspect is that the majority of the homes on the market are not vacant. People who are still in their homes don’t have anywhere to vacate during showings, so it’s another limit to the listings available. 

“Facing a hot market during a time of economic uncertainty is tough. We feel like we have to make a big financial decision fast, but we’re also trying to be smart and plan ahead for the future. The combination can be overwhelming at times, but we stick close to our wish list and have decided that having patience is better than rushing into something we’re not ready for financially,” says Emily.


Navigating house showings during COVID-19

The shift to a “new normal” had just begun when Emily and her partner went to their first house showing. They had been quarantined for two weeks before they saw the first house they were interested in and met their realtor for the first time.

“We didn’t shake hands when we met our realtor and it felt really strange not to do so. We really stayed at a distance from him while we toured the house. I wore gloves so I could open doors and cabinets. When we had a conversation about potential offers on the house, we walked outside and stood away from each other so we all felt comfortable,” Emily says.

That process has largely remained the same throughout the last few months. Gloves, hand sanitizer and safe distances are key when touring homes. Another caveat? No open houses and the increase in virtual and 3D tours of homes online.


Staying fiscally conservative during times of change

The original budget that Emily and her partner had in mind changed as the COVID-19 situation has impacted the economy. “The number we were comfortable with definitely shifted. We want to feel confident that no matter what happens in the next few months with our jobs and the economy that we can afford the home. We’re thinking even more conservatively than we were just a few months ago,” says Emily.

Preparing for the financial future can be difficult in times of great change, but it’s an important reminder to plan as much as possible and stay within financial boundaries that make you feel confident and safe.

Ready to learn more about the home buying journey? Read our first-time home buyer's guide for more detailed information about the process.  

If you're ready to get started and need a partner to help along the way, find a loan officer in your area.