During these unprecedented times, it’s important for agents to do everything they can to protect themselves and their buyers from hiccups during the process. Here are a few things you can do.

In challenging times, it’s a smart idea to revisit the fundamentals of good business. This April, go Back to Basics with Inman.

With so many home loans hanging in the balance right now, even with the bigger banks, it’s imperative for agents to verify a few things about their buyer, starting with the credit score. Down payments? Those are important too! And in the current COVID-19 climate, nothing beats having a lender that you can trust as a backup. Here, I offer a few tips to help you navigate the homebuying process during the pandemic.

1.Verify the buyer’s credit score

Credit scores have always mattered right? Yes! But it’s important to know your buyer’s credit score now more than ever. Be sure your buyer is aware of their current credit score, and help them understand what that score means in the current marketplace. 

Unfortunately, I’ve heard too many stories of lost time and resources because an agent never verified the client’s credit score or overall financial situation. Don’t make the same mistake. Verify, verify, verify. I can’t stress this enough! 

2. Get familiar with current loans and who qualifies

Along the same lines, understanding the loans that are available and what constitutes a qualified buyer is just as important as the home price itself. Deals are in the air on a daily basis, with rates changing and lender guidelines getting stricter because of the banks liquidity, or lack thereof, due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Just read the latest in Housingwire which reveals, “As market volatility increases due to the coronavirus pandemic, mortgage lenders are increasingly tightening their lending standards to add in increased protections against borrower default.”

What does all of this mean? It’s going to get a lot tougher for some buyers due to lenders adding overlays to loans. These overlays are basically revised policies that dictate new and more stringent standards. One of the most significant? Raising the minimum FICO credit score for FHA loans. Without the right score, the entire deal could be blown.

Now add in the fact that many clients are facing job losses, pay cuts, relocation issues and more, and it’s a challenging scenario — especially if they lack a down payment. However, experts say there will still be down payment assistance programs available during the crisis. 

Of course, many buyers who need this won’t know where to start. As the agent, you should keep several resources on hand to lighten their burden and ease the unknowns.

Also, set proper expectations upfront. Currently, lenders and loan officers are experiencing delays, and the buyer should be aware that things are moving a bit slower than normal due to the pandemic. By guiding your clients through the basics, they will have greater confidence in the entire process and in you.

3. Work with a trusted local lender

Lastly, don’t allow your buyer to get duped by a shady lender. During uncertain times, fraud goes up, including identity theft, wire transfers, risky loans and more. Take the extra step and have a trusted lender, or several, in your back pocket, and make your lender recommendations known before your buyer goes down the wrong road. 

Even better, heed the advice of this recent Inman article which says, “This isn’t the time to work with someone who is not located in the area or state where you’re buying the property. Don’t go online and shop rates. It isn’t about finding the lowest rate. It’s about working with a lender who will be able to get you to the closing table — someone who won’t over-promise and under-deliver.”

Follow these tips and your buyers won’t get hit with surprises. And neither will you! Plus, you’ll be better equipped to handle homebuying during these unprecedented times.

What steps are you taking to protect your buyers and yourself in the current real estate climate? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Troy Palmquist is the founder and broker of The Address in Southern California. Follow him on Facebook, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

After 25 years, Inman Connect is coming to you. We’re transcending our legendary events in a live digital event, Inman Connect Now. Get ready for the top industry leaders plotting the path forward, new business ideas and opportunities, networking like you’ve never imagined it, and tons of exciting new magic, all straight to you. It’s all part of an epic new Inman experience, Connect Now, June 2-4, 2020. Click here to save your seat.

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