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If you would've told me last year that I'd spend the better part of 2020 having my children learn remotely, searching for toilet paper online, and slapping on a mask every time I needed to leave the house, I would've shook my head in disbelief. But alas, 2020 has been one wild ride of a year for all of us, and while most of the changes it's brought about have been negative, here are a few ways it's helped some Americans financially.
1. Low purchase mortgage rates
Mortgage rates for new home purchases hit historic lows this year, and despite the ongoing recession, that's opened the door to buying opportunities for a lot of people. Of course, the housing market has also been extremely tight during the pandemic, so buying a home hasn't exactly been easy. Limited inventory has driven home prices up and forced many buyers into stressful and expensive bidding wars. But buyers have, at the very least, been able to snag some amazing deals on recently signed home loans.
2. Low refinance rates
It's not just new home purchasers who have enjoyed competitive mortgage rates. Existing homeowners have had a key opportunity to refinance at extremely low rates as well. And while those who refinance often face expensive closing costs, rates have been so low that there's still been plenty of savings to be reaped. Of course, borrowers with top credit scores have been the ones most likely to benefit from refinancing, but given that mortgage rates will probably stay low into 2021, there's opportunity for more homeowners to work on improving their credit so they can snag competitive offers.
3. Savings opportunities from not going into an office
Whether you've enjoyed working remotely these past eight months or not, one thing's for sure -- not commuting to an office every day has, for many people, resulted in serious savings. But just as importantly, working from home has given a lot of people a better work-life balance. Parents are getting more time with their kids. Pet owners are canceling their dog walkers because they're around during the day to care for their pups. And employers are learning that it's possible to stay connected and productive even when workers aren't crammed into the same physical space, and that could have positive implications once the pandemic is over.
Let's be clear: The coronavirus pandemic is nothing to celebrate -- not even close. More than 250,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and countless families have been shattered on a permanent basis. And let's not forget that millions of workers have lost their jobs and have struggled immensely as a result, while thousands of small businesses have permanently closed their doors.
While it's natural to wish the pandemic never would've happened, some of us may find solace in the silver linings that emerged from it. These financial changes don't minimize the devastation the pandemic has caused, but they do give us a few reasons to be thankful and hopeful as we wait for it to come to an end.