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What you need to know about buying a house during a pandemic

PITTSBURGH — For many people, the biggest purchase of their life is buying a house, but imagine not being able to physically see inside before reaching a deal. One local family went that route.

Greg Karlowsky and his fiancee, Sammi Berman, of Finleyville , said they’ve been searching for their forever home for about year. The search has been tough in the last few months.

"The houses have gone to the market and they've sold immediately," Greg Karlowsky said. "With the pandemic, we kind of felt a little defeated."

When the stay-at-home order was issued in March, real estate agents couldn't physically show homes and housing inspections couldn't be completed. With pending sales moving at a slower rate, the state passed an addendum to protect consumers.

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Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realtor Jane Herrmann explained that this addendum really helps during this unprecedented time. She said the COVID-19 addendum gave both parties, “the ability to extend timelines, in case they needed it for example on a home inspection."

But like many things, the real estate market went virtual. As buyer still wanted to look, companies such as Berkshire Hathaway offered virtual open houses using video platforms like Zoom. The seller would be on mute showing the house, and the agent would describe the home.

"I'm now doing videos on every listing (that) helps a buyer potentially narrow down as a property before they decide to walk through it," Herrmann said.

Berman said it was like watching HGTV but more interactive. "As soon as they open the door I'm like, 'What's not shown? So what's to the right of that turn?'"

The couple said they found their forever home with their two must-haves: a fenced-in yard and finished basement. Contracts were signed, and now they wait for a home inspection, which can happen in the yellow phase.

But even when our area reopens, Herrmann said there will be rules they have to follow to tour homes and open houses may stay virtual.

"I assume we will have masks gloves, booties initially for quite some time," Herrmann said. "That's one of the largest purchases that somebody makes in their lifetime, and they've got to feel comfortable with it, you know, with obviously what they're buying."

While it's not the most conventional approach, Karlowsky said it's like it was meant to be.

“At this point right now when we found the house, our dreams, and we’re not going to miss out on the opportunity," Karlosky said.

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