My New Home: Buying a House During the COVID-19 Pandemic
To say this as simply as possible, it has certainly been an interesting time these past few weeks. I would be lying if I said the process of buying your first house while all of this COVID-19 pandemic was going on was not stressful. It was a mixture of highs and lows, determination, and letting what was meant to be, just be.
Shopping for a House
I started shopping for a house at the end of December. Getting an idea of the area I wanted to live in, figuring out finances, and looking online at the inventory. Then throughout January, the search picked up. I got my loan pre-approved and went to a few open houses. This was about the time the pandemic in China was starting to hit the news here in the US. I didn’t really think anything of it. Then February came. I had an idea of the type of house I wanted and kept a sharp eye on the market for it. Two bedrooms, a big yard, a good neighborhood, a great location, and charm. I had picked the South Bay for a few reasons…
Houses in the South Bay in up and coming cities are more affordable than places in West LA where the same house would cost over a million dollars. I wanted to buy in a city I knew would gain traction over the next few years to be able to sell it for more down the line. Secondly, I wanted to get out of the valley and be closer to Omeed. An hour’s drive anytime we want to see each other never really deterred us, but it had its limits.
The Housing Market
The housing availability in the neighborhoods where I was looking was quite small and just days after being on the market would have multiple offers in and open escrow within the week. I put in 5 different offers that got rejected, one of those houses was I truly sad to lose, but I kept telling myself it was not meant to be. The other houses would have been investment properties. I considered it for a time, but then decided I wanted a single-family home for myself with the option to build an ADU (Additional Dwelling Unit, aka a Granny Flat, Mother-in-law suite, etc.) Just think of it as a second unit outback or a converted garage.
Every weekend I was at open houses, every day I was on Redfin. As soon as something new popped up, I knew about it. I must have seen over 50 properties by mid-March. And luckily I did because I knew the market very well by then and could guess with decent accuracy what a house would go for. It also allowed me to see and fall in love with my house. The photos online did not do this house justice. A 1928 build with lots of its original features, well-built upgrades, and a backyard that has already become my favorite spot of the house. This house had been well-loved and cared for with its own charm.
When I put in the offer, I knew the odds of getting one accepted at this point, especially on a house like this. Of course, multiple offers came in, but after a multiple seller counter offer, my offer was accepted! This was mid-March when the virus wasn’t declared a pandemic just yet but was starting to become a real thing here in the US. The news wouldn’t cover anything else and no one really knew what was ahead for the economy let alone the housing market. I continued business, as usual, watching the new influx of houses. More and more coming on to the market every week. Housing prices in San Pedro still rising. It definitely did not match what was going on in the rest of the world.
The Virus Hits California
When the virus originally hit California it was only a few people, not much to worry about. It wasn’t even in LA County. But soon, it hit home. I staggered with the idea, do I open escrow and see where this goes? Do I back out now to see what the markets are going to do? I decided right then and there to let the universe take its course.
The Universe is In Control
I can be the type of person to try and force things when they are not meant to be. As I get older, I allow what is meant to be just be. I am not one to live in fear of a market collapse. I knew it would right itself as soon as possible. It was both a scary and exciting decision to open escrow. Buying a house has been a dream of mine for a very long time (ever since I moved to Los Angeles 15 years ago and have lived only in apartments and then a condo.) I had grown up in a house with a yard and longed to have my own. I was not going to let the scare of a virus stop my dreams from coming true unless the universe made it clear that it was not the right time.
Unsure Times in Escrow
Buying a house is a bit scary in itself. Large sums of money being traded for a house you’ve never actually spent the night in. Lots of legal paperwork telling you you’re screwed if you don’t pay back your loan. Imagine doing it all at the age of 31 as a young female. But I had a lot of positive things on my side. This was not my first property purchase, I had bought a condo 5 years prior by myself. My boyfriend, Omeed, is an associate broker and was with me every step of the way. (He at one point even told me we had gone to too many open houses and that I should be more selective with which houses I visit. I didn’t care. I wanted to know everything that was out there on the market in the area I was looking in. He was able to answer all my mortgage and real estate questions.
To top it off, I started taking classes in January to get my real estate license so I was able to answer many of the questions myself and understand the entire process much more in-depth than your average buyer. It was basically a hands-on real estate course.
There were nights during this whole process when I would get anxiety attacks. When the market started falling and people starting losing their jobs, I started to get nervous. But I made back up plans, figured out where my business could cut expenses, and increase profits, set a budget for myself, and worked on calming that anxiety with positivity and tuning out the news. There was nothing helpful for me in the news. So instead, I set a schedule and powered through it. Dreaming of owning my own home and where I would put all my furniture. How I would decorate, the birthday party I wanted to throw, and finally owning a dog again.
Quarantine Hits Home
I had just started escrow when the quarantine started. Luckily the house was empty and close to Omeed’s so necessary appointments to get estimates, inspections, and see escrow through made it easier. Plus, we were already spending the day together. I was so focused on getting paperwork signed and sent, looking into bids, and inspection reports that being quarantined didn’t really phase me. That and the fact that I’ve worked at home for 3 years, I was used to a kind of self-isolation at home.
Luckily, by the time Quarantine really expanded to include the closing of all unessential businesses, I was out of the inspection period when I had to meet with anyone to get bids for repairs. It was like the universe had planned all of it to work out this way. Nothing was standing in my way of getting this house. My loan could still be worked on by people working from home. I could pack in quarantine and move the items by myself with the help of my family.
Honestly, it’s as if it was all planned at exactly the right time because this house during this crazy time was meant to be. It was a rollercoaster of fear and excitement. The renovation process has begun and I’ll be sharing my entire progress on my Instagram! Make sure to check out my “New Home” highlights.
Thank you for reading and never let fear stand in your way.