When I started planning a move from Seattle, Washington, back to my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, in March, I didn’t know how drastically things would change, and how quickly the coronavirus would escalate.
By the time I finally left my keys with my roommate in June, the world was in the middle of a global pandemic, and the economy was spiraling due to unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression. But, since I was lucky enough to remain employed and still had my down payment savings, I stuck with my plan to buy a house in the Midwest.
In Cincinnati, I’ll be able to have something that’s mine, and live comfortably on my salary. And, I’ll probably pay less for my mortgage than the $925-a-month I paid to rent a bedroom in Seattle.
At first, I thought that the pandemic would cut down on the competition — who wants to buy a house when the economy is so uncertain? And, who would want to look at houses with the threat of a major pandemic interrupting every interaction? I was willing to, apparently. Given record high mortgage and new home demand, so were a lot of other people.
New mortgages are on the rise, and lenders are tightening standards
I thought I had my mortgage pre-approval in the works in April, but I found out that the lender I’d chosen had tightened its standards and began requiring 20% down, changing their mind on my pre-approval.
Like many other millennials, I’m likely not going to make a full 20% down payment on my new home. While that does mean paying private mortgage insurance, that’s something I’m willing to do in order to start building some equity and save myself from having to rent another apartment. But, since the pandemic started, it also meant I had to shop for a new lender.
Mortgage lenders are becoming spoiled for choice as people gain interest in home buying, in part prompted by record low mortgage interest rates. In June 2020, lenders saw the highest number of mortgage applications in 11 years.
The pandemic meant that I had to spend a bit more time shopping for a mortgage lender, putting another step into an already complicated move.
Homes are snatched up as soon as they’re listed
Working with a real estate agent, I’ve gotten to see a few houses in the area so far. But, there have been many more I’ve not seen that I was interested in, simply because they had pending offers almost as soon as they hit the market.
One recently renovated home I loved in Cincinnati’s Silverton neighborhood — a fairly quiet market compared to more up-and-coming neighborhoods — didn’t even stay on the market for a full weekday. When I found it listed on Zillow on Monday morning, the home already had a full day of showings booked. By Tuesday at noon, it had a pending offer. Houses that are move-in ready go fast right now, at least in Cincinnati’s real estate market.
Demand for homes is currently strong, and the number of homes on the market isn’t keeping pace with demand. As Business Insider‘s Libertina Brandt reports from Redfin data, homebuying demand was up 25% during the first week of June, compared to pre-pandemic levels. But, in the first week of June, new listings were down 15% year-over-year, and homeowners have been reluctant to sell during the pandemic.
It’s made for a competitive environment in Cincinnati, and likely the rest of the US, too. While the pandemic has certainly thrown me curveballs throughout the rapidly lengthening process, I’m willing to wait.
Are you looking to buy a house? Before you start going on showings, contact the loan officers at Wintrust Mortgage to discuss your options.