COVID-19 changed the housing industry in so many ways, from how buyers view potential homes to how loans close. While we all know the world will go back to “normal” at some point, some of these changes are going to be with us forever.
The pandemic has required all of us to use technology to streamline the entire process of buying a home. Many changes have done a fantastic job of keeping people buying, even for complex things like homes. In many cases, these changes have made the process of buying easier. Here are some changes we think will be sticking around in the housing industry for good.
Virtual home showings through 3D videos have revolutionized the industry. They’re so realistic that some expect the end of open houses altogether. At the very least, virtual showings are a way to narrow down options before seeing something in-person.
Virtual showings allow buyers to see many more homes before purchasing while also cutting down on search time because they don’t have to trek all over the place. In some cases, people are cutting out seeing the home in-person all together and are just going ahead and buying!
In addition to virtual showings, real estate agents have realized there is a lot of potential to make home listings more useful to buyers who are surfing the web for the ideal home.
These days, high-quality, professional listing photos (many of them!) are a must. Sellers must show their houses in the best possible light since in-person options are limited. Listing descriptions have also gotten much better, telling people exactly what the home is like with solid explanations of features and amenities.
Some real estate agents are pulling out all the stops, including offering their buyers in-person video tours of the home. This allows potential buyers to stop the agent and ask for a closer look or more detail about anything—Zoom, Facebook, and Google Meet are all good options for a live tour.
The mortgage industry has also seen huge changes toward digitizing the process, which is a good thing, because many lenders are still doing loans the same way they did 20 years ago. Contactless e-mortgages are basically the new norm. There’s no need to see a loan officer in-person at all, instead of doing things over phone, email, or video chat. Some lenders are even offering ink-signed notarization technology.
The speed, lower cost, and convenience that comes with getting a mortgage online is hard to ignore, and these changes are likely here to stay.
Easy Price and Scenario Shopping
Today’s borrowers start the journey of buying a home online. If they don’t like what they find, they just move on to another lender.
They also don’t just want to find loan products. They want to know how the options compare to each other, even if they need an explanation from a lender to fully understand. With so much information online, people are getting a jump start.
Today’s borrowers expect easy communication and a simple application process, or they’ll just move on to another lender.
Curbside and No-Touch Closings
Curbside and no-touch closings are now the norm. With a curbside closing, the title expert goes to the client’s car for signatures. In some cases, remote online notarizations have been an option through an online notary platform or audiovisual portal. Most mortgage experts expect that at some point, the process of getting a mortgage will be fully online.
At any rate, curbside and no-touch closings are easier for everyone than a traditional mortgage closing. They save time and mitigate scheduling challenges.
Streamlined Application Process
The process of applying for a mortgage and getting that initial pre-approval has become a lot easier. Mortgage apps help guide people through the journey of buying a home, prompt them when it’s time to upload documents, and more.
A more streamlined application process also allows lenders to use data to analyze documentation the borrower submits and help them make quick and effective decisions about qualifying borrowers. This helps them move away from the human element of making a decision and using data to make a sound lending decision instead.
Automation has also reduced very long application-to-funding turn times. Adapting global work teams and using automated backend processes has helped make the entire process quicker by bringing in the human element only when needed.
Much like the housing industry, the appraisal industry has had to adapt too, since people don’t want appraisers coming into their homes, and appraisers don’t feel very safe going inside.
There’s long been a desire to speed up the appraisal process, and the pandemic has given the entire industry the push to do just that. In fact, Fannie and Freddie are taking professional opinions about how to proceed with changing the appraisal process (which they’ve never done before).
We have an exciting app in the works that will solve many challenges the appraisal industry is currently facing. By allowing homeowners to provide information about the home directly to the appraiser, we will be able to:
—Ensure an accurate report and an accurate comp for the future
—Ensure the appraiser gets all needed information
—Eliminate many scheduling challenges
—Make the appraisal process quicker by saving travel time
Technology is the key to making appraisals quicker and making the entire process of getting a mortgage quicker, as well. The appraisal industry’s success will depend on its ability to keep up with technology.
No matter what, we applaud recent changes in the housing industry due to technological innovation, and we’re excited to see what the future holds and be a part of it ourselves!