My family has decided we want to move out of New York City to the suburbs. Is it better to start looking now or wait until things settle back to normal—whenever that may be?
You may not be able to attend open houses or showings for a while, but it's a good idea to start researching now, our experts say.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit New York especially hard, and you're not alone in considering a move away from a densely-populated city. Many Manhattanites have already fled to the Hamptons, for instance, and Airbnb data show a nationwide trend of urbanites heading to more suburban and rural areas.
And if you're feeling motivated to make a move to the suburbs, you can make the most of your quarantine time by doing research from home.
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"I think it’s a great idea to look online and to start to ask questions via email or by phone of the various houses that you’re looking at. You can also get to know different neighborhoods online and by speaking with agents," says Deanna Kory, a broker with Corcoran. "And then as time goes on and you’re able to go see the properties, it would be a good idea to pinpoint the ones that seem to be the best for you."
Many agents and sellers are also finding workarounds for social distancing restrictions, hosting virtual tours and walkthroughs for prospective buyers. In some ways, it's easier than ever to get a sense of a property without visiting it in person. And some homes for sale are currently vacant and therefore can be shown with careful measures in place.
You can also research beyond homes themselves and get to know more about their surrounding neighborhoods, including typical price points for the area.
"You can educate yourself now based on what's available. See what's vacant, and do some virtual tours," says Linda Skolnick, a broker with Coldwell Banker in Westport, CT. "If you're educated now, when more homes come onto the market you can react quickly."
You should also take this time to reflect on what criteria you're looking for, in terms of proximity to the city, architectural style, willingness to renovate, budget, and more, Kory suggests.
"Make sure to get prequalified online or in person via phone with a local banker who can help you become preapproved for a mortgage if you plan to take one," she says. "And if you need to sell your current home or apartment, you can get a sense of how to prepare for it by speaking with an agent who is familiar with your building or location."
These preparations are key—in some areas, like her own in Westport, Skolnick says, there will be fierce competition after social distancing measures end, as inventory was already low and demand high before the onset of the Covid-19 crisis.
In addition to informing yourself about the local real estate market in your desired suburbs, be sure to prep your finances as well.
"Now is also the time to tidy things up, and clean up your credit," she says. "Talk to a mortgage broker now."
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