Looking to buy a home? Here’s how COVID-19 has changed the home buying process.

As home buying experts we work to stay as up to date on the current market as possible. So we are best positioned to help you on your journey to buy a home. Something that’s recently caught our eye is the shift in what buyers are looking for in the current environment. There’s no two ways about it, the pandemic has changed our economy, our ability to interact with one another, and our mindset surrounding money. Interestingly, it’s also changed home buyers’ criteria when looking for a new home. So what are these criteria, and what kind of homes are considered most desirable in a post-COVID climate?

Virtual Home Buying

Something that has gained massive momentum as a result of COVID-19 is the rise in virtual viewings. When looking at sites like Rightmove and Zoopla, you’ll see estate agents have quickly moved to video tours which are uploaded to accompany house ads – and we’re not complaining! Whilst viewing a property virtually might seem less comprehensive, property sites are getting creative with 3-D visuals, detailed walk-around videos and live Facetime tours. Upsides? You can watch from the comfort of your sofa. You’ve got none of the time-pressure you get  when an agent shows you around in person. Plus, you can rewind to get a better look at specific rooms!

Earlier this year, the Financial Times covered the story of a £6m London family home sold to an overseas buyer, who had only seen the property through a virtual walk-through made using the 3D system Matterport. Whilst once such technology may have seemed purposeless in comparison to viewing in person, these virtual options are now proving essential to maintaining buyer motivation and creating new routes of accessibility. An Edinburgh estate agent has been quoted as saying: “There is no doubt that virtual viewings are here to stay: they provide the prospective buyer or tenant with an experience that is as close as possible to a physical viewing, but without the inconvenience of having to leave their own home.” 

So it seems like the rise of virtual viewings won’t be slowing down anytime soon, even if only to exist as a secondary option to pique buyer interest online. What are your thoughts on virtual viewings? 

More Than Just a Home

We don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that 2020 has transformed the meaning of the word ‘home’. This year, our homes have doubled as home gyms, home schools and home offices – which means that a space to eat and sleep will no longer quite cut it. Results from a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors revealed that at least 13% of participants are changing one home feature that is important to them, proving that buyer’s needs are changing as a result of COVID-19. Priorities are shifting and buyers are broadening their horizons. U.S site Point2 Homes analysed the profile of the new 2020 homebuyer – and things are changing to say the least. Whilst previous key search terms when looking for homes included ‘granite worktops and ‘hardwood floors’, these amenities are taking a back seat in favour of square footage, living space and outdoor features. 

Many of us have also been getting green fingers during lockdown. Buyers may now be looking for homes with gardens in which they can grow their own produce. Although there have been rising concerns over food shortages during the pandemic, gardening is also a way to ‘leave home’ without straying too far, and this is reflected in recent home buyer statistics. Younger people seem to be desperate for more outside space:  71% of under-40’s state that garden and outdoor space has become more important to them, alongside other factors such as wireless internet (48%) and a separate space to work from home (44%). Overall, the numbers clearly mark a shift in buyer’s priorities and a move towards more multifaceted homes – and who can blame us for wanting more!

Picking Up Speed

Whilst lockdown undoubtedly put the property market on pause, recently we’ve seen a rise in homebuyer interest.  Besides – there’s nothing quite like being cooped up in one place to inspire a house move. The stamp duty holiday in the UK and Northern Ireland has been a huge help for many. All of a sudden, homebuyers were able to save up to £15k on stamp duty taxes, so it’s not surprising that this has helped fuel a sense of urgency. It proved particularly helpful for those who were already homeowners looking to get a leg up on the property ladder. On the other hand – we’ve noted some side effects. Awareness of the stamp duty holiday has allowed homeowners to keep their asking prices high, so often what was saved on the stamp duty was then reduced by the higher sale price. Some first time buyers have been pushed hard to find a 15% or 20% deposit, as a result of banks having withdrawn their 90% mortgages. 

Despite this, we’d encourage buyers not to lose hope as this expected to only be temporary. A survey by Rightmove with 784 homemovers revealed that 94% still plan to press ahead with their move during the pandemic, and only 6% will put their search on hold.

What are you looking to buy?

Overall, it’s clear that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the range of options that are available to homebuyers. Some of the best of these are the new levels of accessibility that virtual viewings offer, and buyer’s becoming more ambitious about the functionality of their homes. Whilst the stamp duty tax brings about both good and bad, we’d encourage movers not to be discouraged and to focus on planning ahead. So why not use this time to start exploring what options are available to you?

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How covid 19 has change home buying process
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