TAMPA, Fla. — Real estate agents in the Tampa Bay area are making changes to ensure people can buy and sell homes safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Realtors are considered essential workers under the safer at home orders issued by the state and several counties.
Many agents are now paying out of pocket to create more virtual video tours of homes listed on websites like Zillow, according to Chris Zoller, an agent with Brainard Realty in Tampa.
"We're just having to get creative with how we're showing homes and how we're doing open houses," Zoller said. "Other than that, our business is essential. We have to find people homes. That doesn't stop. People still need somewhere to live, even in a pandemic."
Brian D. Frey, an agent with The Frey Team at Pineywoods Realty in Tampa, said if you don't opt for a virtual tour and go to a property, expect to take extra safety precautions. He said he showed a property recently where everyone had protective gear.
"Gloves. Masks," Frey said. "We will make it brief and that's exactly what we did."
Zoller said there are still hundreds of homes on the market in the Tampa Bay area. He said while things have slowed during the pandemic, of 14 contracts he's managed recently, only one dropped because of COVID-19.
In addition to those changes, it could be harder for some people to get an FHA loan during the pandemic, according to agents. They say lenders are now requiring a higher credit score for the same loans.
An FHA loan through the Department of Housing and Urban Development is designed for low-to-moderate income borrowers and requires lower minimum down payments and credit scores than many conventional loans. Cities and counties also often offer down-payment assistance programs.
Frey said before the COVID-19 pandemic, lenders were requiring a 580, 590, or 600 credit score for an FHA loan. Now, they are requiring a 620 to 640 credit score.
According to agents, lenders had to ensure people can really afford to buy the homes after the changes we've seen in the economy after the pandemic hit.
“I mean people’s financial positions changed overnight," Frey said. “They had to put the brakes on it, but it is not game over."
If you would like to learn more about securing an FHA loan, connect with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can also contact a HUD-approved housing counselor or call (800) 569-4287 for more information.