The Covid-19 pandemic has caused uncertainty for almost every industry and facet of society. As a prospective homebuyer, you may be wondering how to navigate this major financial decision in the current environment. Although potential challenges and changes have interrupted the home buying process, there can also be several benefits to buying a home right now. Tom Mahoney, SVP, Director of Mortgage, shares his insight on industry trends and opportunities for home buyers in this unique season.

An Unprecedented Shift

At the start of the pandemic crisis, industry experts anticipated seeing a freeze in home sales. This was, in fact, the case with a 15% decrease in national home sales in March continuing into April and early May. In Wisconsin, home sales stayed strong from January through April, but declined in May. Although June home sales were 3% below what we saw in June of 2019, the state experienced a significant rebound in sales coming out of May. Despite the initial market slowdown from Covid-19, home purchases continue to rise.

Pent-Up Supply and Demand

At the onset of the pandemic, many potential buyers and sellers came to a standstill due to the uncertainty of the situation. This has resulted in pent-up demand from people who have desired to buy and sell a home since early spring. As states gradually begin to reopen, buyers, sellers and industry professionals are learning to better adapt to health and safety challenges, leading to a rise in home purchases. We believe the changes made during this time will help minimize the chances of a significant slowdown like the one we saw nationally in March and April and locally in May.

Attractive Rates

The recent rise in home purchases is largely due to low interest rates. Rates are at historical lows – even lower than the lows in 2016 – enabling buyers to afford more home for a lower monthly cost. We expect rates to be attractive throughout the remainder of 2020 and well into 2021.

New Technology and Safety Precautions

The pandemic has led to a more cautious approach to many aspects of the home buying process. Loan officers, realtors, appraisers and inspectors are improving and embracing safety protocols, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves. The crisis has also forced the mortgage industry – along with many other industries – to advance technology more rapidly than it has in the past. Online applications, electronic signatures and virtual home tours all contribute to a more streamlined and efficient process for home buyers in today’s market.

How to Get Started

Identify a knowledgeable loan officer

Working with an experienced mortgage loan officer will help you determine how much you can borrow and the amount you should feasibly spend on your home.

Find a local Realtor® or real estate broker

A real estate professional who knows the market and your desired location can help you negotiate your purchase price and provide advance notice of new listings.

Gather your information

Gather your personal and financial documents including your social security number, W-2s from the last two years, bank and asset statements, pay stubs from the past few months, tax returns, and your most recent mortgage statement (if applicable).

Pre-approval

A pre-approval will help determine what you can realistically afford to pay for your new home. Your mortgage loan officer will review your income, assets, and credit. Once approved, your loan officer can provide a pre-approval letter to give to your realtor before you begin looking at homes. When you are ready to make an offer, the seller knows your offer is solid.

Working with a trusted mortgage professional

Regardless of technological advancements, it is important to develop a personal relationship with a trusted mortgage professional who will listen to your individual situation and life goals to determine which mortgage loan option is right for you. Many factors come into play including anticipated changes in finances, the length of time you plan to live in your home, and how comfortable you are with your mortgage payment changing. Despite attractive rates, a trusted mortgage professional can also help you evaluate whether it is the right time to buy a home. For example, if you recently lost your job or do not have adequate savings for a down payment, you may want to delay purchasing a home until you are confident in your financial situation.

Our mortgage loan officers will help you find the loan program to best align with your finances, life goals, and your future plans.

Products and services offered by Johnson Bank, Member FDIC, a Johnson Financial Group Company. Loans are subject to credit and property approval, bank underwriting guidelines, and may not be available in all states. Other loan programs and pricing may be available. The term of the loan will vary based upon program chosen. Certain conditions, terms, and restrictions may apply based on the loan program selected.