Coronavirus has dramatically impacted the lives of millions. If you’re one of many individuals who had planned a big life change for 2020, you may find yourself unsure of how to proceed. Whether you were buying a home, planning a wedding, or starting a business, here’s some information about how you can move forward.
The onset of COVID-19 brought about one of the worst stock market downturns in over a decade, sending us into a bear market. Though stocks have since seen a big upswing, the economy is volatile; small businesses globally are suffering, and millions of people were laid off, furloughed, or forced to work reduced hours.
If you were planning to buy a home, you’ve seen the effects on the housing market, including:
- High levels of unemployment across the country
- Sudden financial uncertainty for families previously looking to buy a home
- A lack of willingness by buyers and agents to attend open houses
- Sellers having second thoughts and pulling their original listings off the market
While these factors may negatively impact the housing market, it’s important to note that the recent market downturn has produced some favorable conditions for buyers. According to Freddie Mac, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is at 3.32%, compared to 4.14% in early May of 2019.1 If you are in a financially stable position and looking to buy, this may still be an ideal time to purchase a home. Before you do, check in with your financial advisor.
How Are Real Estate Agents Able to Sell Houses?
Just like most other business owners, real estate agents have gotten creative to maintain sales. Some agents are offering virtual showings and video house tours to show properties to buyers.
Others still offer in-person meetings, but with extra health and safety precautions in place. For example, you may be asked to wear masks and gloves, and properties may be extensively cleaned and disinfected between visits.
While virtual or limited-contact showings are a challenge, they offer a chance to continue your homebuying journey during the pandemic.
Closing costs and mortgage rates
It’s common for the seller of a home to cover certain closing costs. But with the market down and limited inventory available, you may be expected to pay more closing costs than usual. Be prepared and budget for these extra expenses.
Even if you were initially looking to move, but have since changed your mind, you may still be considering taking advantage of lower mortgage rates to refinance your home. Remember, you’ll want to make sure the costs involved with refinancing are worth the potential monthly savings; the cost of refinancing can reach a few thousand dollars once you factor in fees for appraisals, title searches, etc. Your financial advisor can help you figure out whether or not it’s worth it to refinance.
More than half of this year’s soon-to-be newlyweds are postponing their weddings until later this year or 2021.2 After dozens of phone calls and months of planning, delaying your wedding can be a chaotic, stressful, and emotional chore. However, brides and grooms (and, in some cases, their parents) have options about what to do next.
Consider Digital Options
While it’s not particularly traditional, you could have guests attend your nuptials virtually, via Zoom or live stream. If you don’t want to let COVID-19 postpone the happiest day of your life, hosting a virtual wedding could be the way to go. This could be an especially appealing option for couples looking to bring a more intimate feel to their big day.
Play It Safe by Postponing to 2021
If you want your wedding to be like the one you originally planned, instead of pushing it back several months, consider postponing to 2021. Spring weddings tend to have a distinctly different aesthetic than fall or winter weddings. If you have your heart set on a spring wedding, you can probably still have one—next year.
And understand just how uncertain the situation is. No one can guarantee when large gatherings and events will become safe. You don’t want to postpone your wedding to September only to have to reschedule it again. Consider also that there’s no guarantee that large gatherings will be permitted even next spring. The longer you’re willing to wait, the less impact the pandemic is likely to have on your special day.
Some Vendors Will Be Flexible, Some Won’t
Everyone knows and understands the complexity of the situation, so many vendors and venues will likely be flexible. However, this depends on the individual vendor and the contracts you’ve signed. In many cases, you can work with them to reschedule or get a refund; but in other cases, you might lose your money and will have to accommodate these losses into your budget.
The process may get messy, but don’t let that distract you. Make a spreadsheet to track your finances and manage your budget. And remember, your vendors may be fighting to keep their businesses alive. Approach them with understanding and sympathy when you’re asking them for help. (If you’re not shown any consideration in return, you can always take a firmer stance if necessary.)
It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
The most important thing is to accept what is happening and try not to panic. You’re likely feeling a myriad of emotions from sadness to frustration. These feelings are all valid, and it’s natural to be upset. Right now, it’s okay not to be okay. But take a deep breath and remind yourself that it will all work out.
Know That Your Big Day Will Come
Postponing your wedding is a difficult decision and can be extremely disappointing. Don’t let your stress and frustration affect your life in the months to come. Perhaps exchange rings, or celebrate with your partner on your would-be wedding day. Most importantly, be optimistic, have a positive attitude, and remember that you’re not alone.
Starting Your New Business
If your plans for 2020 included opening a new business, the current pandemic might have seemed to crush those dreams. But don’t give up hope. Here are a few ways you can get creative to launch your new business.
If you had planned to sell merchandise or products, consider selling those items online instead of in-store. You can do this through your website or even via live stream auctions on social media. Offering shipping or curbside pickup can also help boost your sales.
If your business plans were more service-based, see if you can offer those services digitally. Music lessons, cooking classes, or fitness consultations can all be provided via video meetings. (Come to think of it, so can financial planning.) You may need to set up an at-home office or studio space, but even a simple, inexpensive arrangement can help generate income while in quarantine.
Offer Gift Cards
Many small businesses are struggling to pay the bills, and those that just opened physical locations only to be met by mandatory shutdown orders are facing this challenge without the benefit of savings from previous years’ business income. Promoting the sale of gift cards can introduce your company to new customers, and the immediate funds will help keep you afloat until you’re able to open your doors again.
Research Available Resources
Check federal, state, and local government websites to find support for your small business; the U.S. Treasury has information on the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, and the U.S. Small Business Administration has relief available. Do your research to sign up for any programs for which you are qualified.
Of course, your plans may have been interrupted in many other ways: special vacations, graduation celebrations, elective surgery, or pursuing a new degree. No matter what 2020 had in store, all of us are adapting to a changing world. While you may have to adapt your goals, you don’t have to give up on them. Remain calm, patient, and creative when adjusting your plans.
1. http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/: “For the fourth consecutive week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been below 3.30 percent, giving potential buyers a good reason to continue shopping even amid the pandemic.” Accessed 5/26/2020).