With millions of people continuing to work remotely during the pandemic (as of this summer, over 40% of the U.S. workforce was working from home), people have new flexibility in where they can live. The opportunities of remote work, combined with the need for space for home offices or homeschool classrooms for distance learning, has prompted many people to consider moving. But is now a good time to buy or rent financially? Read on to find out. Here’s what you should know about buying or renting a new home during the pandemic.
Is Now a Good Time to Buy A Home?
Now is not a good time to buy a house if you can help it. Traditional wisdom holds that homes are cheaper during a recession, so economic downturns are a good time to buy a home. But the economic impacts of COVID-19 have been unusual, and the housing market isn’t performing as expected during tough times.
Mortgage rates are at all-time lows right now, which means it’s a fantastic time to refinance your mortgage if you already own. However, home prices aren’t cheaper than usual. In fact, they’re higher, because there are fewer people selling.
There were about 400,000 less homes put on the market between March and September this year as compared to 2019, which is driving home prices up. Buyers are competing for fewer houses, which means that they have to put in higher offers.
Besides the changes in the market from the pandemic, now is not an ideal time to buy a home because of the massive financial commitment. With an unsteady job market, it’s possible you could lose your job or have your salary cut and be unable to pay your mortgage.
Is Now a Good Time to Rent a New Home?
If you’re steadily employed and don’t expect to be unable to pay rent in the next year, now is actually a great time to rent a new apartment or home. The impacts to the rental market have been very different than the real estate market, to tenants’ benefit.
Rents are down across the country, especially in large cities. Zumper’s October report on rental trends showed that in urban coastal cities like Los Angeles, Boston and New York, rents are down by an average of 12% from the same time last year. In some cities, like San Francisco, the drop in rental prices is even more dramatic: San Francisco rents are down over 30%.
In order to attract more tenants, landlords aren’t just dropping rents: they’re also throwing in benefits like lower security deposits, allowing pets, covering utilities and more. If you’re considering renting a new apartment, you can likely get a bigger or nicer space than you would have been able to a year ago.
How Can You Move Safely During the Pandemic?
Moving during the pandemic can be nerve wracking, but you can do it safely. Here are some tips for moving during COVID-19:
1) If you can, move yourself rather than using movers: If it’s possible to move yourself or use trusted family or friends to help, you can minimize your risk of exposure this way. If you do use a moving company, be sure to choose them carefully and make sure they are taking COVID-19 precautions. When the movers are in your home, wear your mask and keep your distance from them.
2) Thoroughly disinfect after moving in: clean and disinfect surfaces as you unpack in your new space. Although surfaces aren’t the primary way the virus spreads, it’s still an important precaution to take.
3) Buy plenty of packing materials: Minimize trips to the store to restock on boxes and packing tape by buying more than you think you need.
4) Check COVID-19 precautions at donation sites: Some clothing and home goods donation sites, like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, aren’t taking donations or are requiring special protocols during the pandemic. Double-check before you drop off anything you are getting rid of before moving.
5) Fly Safely with TSA PreCheck: If you need to fly to your new home, get TSA PreCheck to minimize your COVID-19 exposure
6) Update your residency, voter registration and license: When you move, you will need to update your government-issued IDs, voter registration and state residency with your new address. We can help you navigate this with Skip Plus.
7) Register your car: When you move, you’ll need to register your car in your with your new home address. We can get you A DMV appointment to do this, or you might be able to do it online.
8) Get new auto insurance: You may need to switch your auto insurance if your insurance doesn't cover the area you are moving to. You can compare insurance rates with Skip.
Think Carefully About Whether Moving During the Pandemic is Right For You
With the volatility of the real estate market during the pandemic, it’s not an ideal time to buy a home. However, if you’re renting rather than buying a home, you may find that you can rent for less due to the drop in median rent prices during the pandemic. If you decide to move, make sure to take proper COVID-19 precautions. We can help you navigate all the logistics of moving with Skip Plus, and you can read more economics and COVID-19 news here on the blog every day.