What to Expect When Buying a Home Virtually

The current public health and economic crisis has dramatically changed the way we live, work, and socialize. As a result, many industry sectors have been forced to find new ways of working and doing business over the past few months. The same is true for the real estate industry. With people asked to stay at home and many businesses temporarily shutting down, realtors, real estate websites, and other businesses or professionals involved in the real estate industry were constrained to go digital almost overnight just to maintain continuity and stay afloat.

This has dramatically changed the business of buying and selling homes, along with the home-buying and closing process. Because buying a house virtually is becoming increasingly common these days, we’ve decided to write this blog post to explain what you should expect when buying a home remotely.

Virtual Tours When Buying a Home

Even before the pandemic, most real estate websites were making available property photos and videos. Although this could be helpful as a starting point, we must admit that it’s quite difficult to imagine how it actually feels to walk inside a house by just looking at photos or watching videos. 

Because the idea of taking out a six-figure mortgage and making an offer on a house without seeing the property in person can be quite scary for a homebuyer, many real estate websites and realtors now offer virtual open house tours. Unlike 3D and 360-degree photos and videos, a live virtual tour allows for a more interactive experience. That’s because you can ask questions on the spot and give the agent directions, such as requiring him or her to open doors, return to rooms, or use his or her smartphone’s camera to zoom in on specific areas for a closer look. You can also ask the agent to show you the home’s exterior, so you get a grasp of its curb appeal, parking situation, and surrounding neighborhood.

Furthermore, most real estate websites make available zoom-in/zoom-out features, which let shoppers visually inspect every corner of a house. Real estate agents also post virtual tours of properties for sale on social media platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. In addition to live virtual tours and specific website functionality, you can use Google Maps to get a feel for the neighborhood.

Thanks to different apps and website features, many homebuyers have already embraced the new reality of getting to know properties virtually. What’s more, the fact that you can get a realistic view of different properties for sale and take notes on how a house compares to others from the comfort of your own home, while staying safe and saving a lot of time, is definitely a big plus.  

Home Inspections Will Never Be Virtual

Home inspections have always been a critical part of the home-buying process. Because the inspector evaluates every area of a home for sale, including major components like the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems, the inspection will reveal any issues you should be aware of before buying the home. However, home inspections are slightly different now. It was common for the family or friends to be present during home inspections in the past, these days it’s advisable to limit the number of people who want to attend a home inspection. Family and friends can still join the inspection process virtually. 

The Closing Can Be Done Online 

Even before the pandemic, the home buying process became increasingly digital. Nowadays, real estate transactions can be done entirely online by sellers as well as buyers. To begin with, if you want to purchase a home any time soon, you can apply for a mortgage online with North Florida Mortgage. Assuming that you get pre-approved for a mortgage and a seller accepts your offer, the closing process can be done online through one of the approved online notarization platforms available.

To complete the closing online, the title company is required to upload the documents to an online notarization platform. Once the documents are uploaded, you can log on to review them and discuss any issues you may observe with your agent and/or the title company. Once all the documents are reviewed, they can be signed electronically by all signers.

To prevent identity fraud, online notarization platforms use knowledge-based authentication (KBA) and software-based analysis of photo IDs to validate signers’ identities. Additionally, encrypted data records are kept for a period of time specified in the contract. The key advantage of completing your closing online is that, while the notary must be physically located in the state that authorizes the use of online notarization platforms, the seller and buyer can be in other states. Furthermore, online closings speed up fund transfers and commission payments, dramatically reducing post-closing processing times. 

Real Estate Contracts Still Include a Release Clause

Just because you tour a home virtually and make an offer on it, it doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to purchase it, regardless of whether it meets your expectations or not. Nowadays, real estate contracts comprise a series of contingency clauses, including a clause that allows for a physical tour before closing on the home. If the home doesn’t meet your expectations, you can back out of the home purchase agreement. For instance, if there’s an unpleasant musty smell lingering in the house or any other issue that wasn’t captured during the virtual tour or home inspection, but it’s a deal-breaker to you, you can walk away from the deal without any penalties. For this to be possible, however, you need to make sure that the contract includes a provision for a physical tour and a release clause.

Why Buying a Home Now May Be Right for You

The uncertainty that currently surrounds our lives creates some unique advantages of buying a house at this time. One of these advantages is the mortgage interest rate, which hit another record low recently. Lower interest rates often translate into lower monthly mortgage payments. There may also be less competition for houses in some areas, considering that some homebuyers are still reluctant to tour houses in person as well as virtually. This means that sellers might be more flexible on price. Once the crisis passes, more homebuyers will probably return to the housing market, and home prices, as well as mortgage interest rates, may go up again. To find out if now is a good time for you to buy a home, contact our friendly professionals today!

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