How can I buy a house virtually?

Buying a House Virtually: What to Know

How can I buy a house virtually?

Are you considering buying a home sight unseen? Lots of people are buying homes virtually today. Technology is so advanced you can actually buy a home from your living room, in another part of the country, while on your computer or phone. Here are some great tips for buying a house virtually if you plan to go that route.

Would you buy a house without seeing it first? It may not be for everyone, but many people have and will continue to do so, as this is the year that dictates it. Welcome to the world of technology!

Find a Buyer’s Agent

The first and best tip for buying a house virtually is to find yourself a great buyer’s agent. Read their reviews. Talk to them. Make sure they’re local and that you’re a good fit for this person. This is so important. You want someone local who really knows the area.

Since you will be working closely together with this person, albeit virtually, by email and on the phone, you want someone you and trust. Only you know your comfort zone. And you need to be comfortable with your agent, and they need to be satisfied with you. It’s a two-way street.

Don’t bother calling the listing agent. The listing agent has a contract with the seller to get them the highest price possible. How can that possibly benefit you as a buyer? It doesn’t! Same thing with builders.

In their offices are very nice salespeople, but guess who they work for? Right! The builder! Not you, the buyer. So do yourself a big favor and hire a buyer’s agent. They’re free to you. It’s good to have someone watching out for your interests. It will not only save you time; it will ly save you a lot of aggravation, too.

Another suggestion, don’t rely on property portals. They’re sufficient for looking at pictures of homes, getting notified if a house comes on the market, but they aren’t local, and they cannot answer many questions. For example, can a portal sit and explain the area, what’s included in your homeowner’s fees or if a community will accept your pets.

They rely on the multiple listing service, which can and often do have mistakes.

Get Pre Approved

You must get pre-approved if you’re planning to finance a home. This is a critical step in order to move forward, whether you are buying a home virtually or in person. Odds are your agent knows good lenders they’ve worked with before and can recommend some to you.

Maybe you already have one. That’s fine, but you cannot buy a home unless you’re pre-approved. In fact, since the pandemic started, many sellers and builders will not allow you to tour a home unless they know you’re pre-approved.

You know you have great credit, but sellers and builders don’t know you. If your agent goes to submit an offer on your behalf, you must have a pre-approval. It’s the old saying goes, “Show me the money!” Sellers will not even consider an offer without knowing you’re qualified to buy the home. So take my advice and get yourself pre-approved for a mortgage. Pre-approved, not pre-qualified.

Determine Your Needs and Wants

Make a list of your must-haves and another list of things that may be negotiable.

For example, your must-have list may be the property must be in a particular city or town, must have a garage, must have three bedrooms, must have good schools, must be pet friendly, must be in a gated community, must be in a 55+ community and so on. These items are essential and non-negotiable to you. With so many people working from home, a home office may also be a top priority.

Next, make a list of items you’d to have but may be a trade-off. In other words, things you are willing to bend on to get the home you want. Your would–to-have list may include a water view, a certain lot, inground pool vs. community pool, that 4th bedroom, or many things.

With low inventory, your agent needs to know precisely what you’re looking for. They can eliminate homes that definitely won’t work and find others that may. Good agents do a lot of research on where a property is located, schools, permits, age of the roof, age of the major systems in the home, and more. No time is wasted.

Tips to Buy a Home Using Virtual Tours

Virtual tours work great when buying a home from afar. This can be done by FaceTime, Skype, Messenger, Whatsapp, and other apps. However, arrangements must be made for virtual tours.

Your agent will take care of this and coordinate with your schedule. There are things to work out, such as if a home is occupied or vacant, will they have to meet a listing agent, and when you are free. If several properties are going to be seen virtually in one day, making a schedule is vital.

Your buyer’s agent is very skilled at this. They will educate and prepare you in advance. If you are not familiar with the area, they can highlight a map and label communities, schools, shopping, whatever is of importance to you. They can give you an idea as to location and what is near the house.

It’s a good idea to see the neighborhood and what is in proximity to the house you are looking to buy. When I say home, I include condos, townhouses, and villas, as well. They may even be able to obtain a floor plan, if available.

Virtual tours are an essential tool in today’s world of real estate and coronavirus. For a seller, it cuts down on the number of people walking through their house. Some sellers are afraid, so the fewer people, the better. Masks and sanitizers are mandatory.

Gloves and booties may be required, and the fewer people in a home, the better. For a buyer, it allows them to view the house from afar, to go inside and tour the home, see the layout, rooms, condition, and more. Is the home in good condition? Buyers can ask questions during a virtual tour. It’s they’re actually touring the house with the agent. And they are – except virtually!

Submit Your Offer

You’ve found a property you and works for you. Great! Now it’s time to submit an offer, which must be accompanied by your pre-approval or proof of funds if it’s a cash purchase.

You may find yourself in a multiple-offer situation. Your agent will want to get your offer submitted in a timely fashion with all accompanying documentation. If you end up making an offer on a home with several offers, take my advice, literally don’t waste time. Go for it.

Some buyer’s agents will have you write a letter to the sellers introducing yourself, why you would to live in the home and how you will take good care of it.

Each state is different. Consult your real estate agent for how offers are submitted in your state. Some states are attorney states, while in other states, the agents write proposals.

If your agent writes the offer, this can be done on Saturday night at 11:00, if necessary. Remember, don’t waste time. While you’re thinking about it, those other offers may be being considered by the seller.

Recommend a Home Inspection

One of the best tips for buying a house virtually is not to waive a home inspection. Despite multiple offers that may be coming in and the pressure you may be feeling, a home inspection is essential and money well spent. A condo or house is one of the biggest – if not the biggest – purchase you will make in your life. You need to know what you’re dealing with.

Every house has something – even brand new homes. And yes, you need a buyer’s agent and a home inspection for new construction, too.

You want to make sure the major systems, the high-ticket items are functioning and that the house doesn’t have mold or radon, or that it needs a new roof.

Would you want the house if it had them? Maybe yes, maybe no, but at least you’ve been made aware of the condition.

Some inspection issues can be worked out between buyer and seller, but you must know what you’re dealing with first. You may decide to put a new roof on, but it won’t come as a surprise after closing.

See House in Person

You have now seen the house virtually and gathered a lot of information about it, the neighborhood, schools, and more. You have submitted an offer that has been accepted.

Are you satisfied with seeing the house virtually? The other options are to fly or drive to view the home in person. This is a personal decision you have to make.

Some people will fly down while others won’t. It’s a matter of what you’re comfortable with. I have had people do both. Some people fly down to double-check they’re happy with the home, and some people are satisfied with having bought the house virtually. There is no right or wrong on this one. It’s your call.

Close on The Home

Congratulations! Your offer has been accepted. Home inspections are complete. You’ve worked out the details with your agent and the seller. You’ve got your mortgage. Now you’re just waiting to close.

Since you’re town, you may decide to close in person, or you can close by mail. It’s your choice and whatever works for you, whatever you’re comfortable with, is how it will be done.

Final Thoughts on Buying a House Virtually

The way you can buy a home is changing. The world is changing. Technology connects us all. Of course, there are still people who want to actually view homes in person before buying one, and that’s okay.

Buying a house virtually may not be for everyone. But, the option is there. It’s very real, and it’s happening. People are buying homes without seeing them first. The pandemic has brought it to the forefront.

Ultimately, you have to decide what will work best for you. There is no right or wrong way. Buyers have to feel comfortable. If you’re comfortable buying a home after seeing it on video or virtually, phone calls, emails, or maybe even Zoom meetings, these tips will be useful.

About the The above article on virtually buying a home was written by Elyse Berman. Elyse is a seasoned REALTOR® in Boca Raton, FL, as well as a retired court reporter.

She focuses on pet-friendly real estate helping buyers and sellers. She also helps people who have no pets! A local resident for 26 years, her knowledge of the Boca/Delray/Highland Beach/Boynton Beach real estate market is extensive.

Areas of service include Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Highland Beach, Boynton Beach, and surrounding areas.


Should You Buy A House Sight Unseen? | Pros & Cons

How can I buy a house virtually?

Many home buyers these days have to move quickly. That’s because demand outweighs supply, and appealing homes that hit the market often generate bidding wars and sell fast.

Some buyers eager to move fast will buy a home ‘sight unseen,’ without ever touring the place in person.

This can be a good strategy in a competitive real estate market. But sight-unseen homes aren’t without risk. Here’s what you should know before making an offer.

Verify your home buying eligibility (Mar 26th, 2021)

In this article (Skip to…)

What does it mean to buy a house ‘sight unseen’?

Purchasing a home ‘sight unseen’ means buying it without having toured the property in person first.

Typically, someone buying a home sight-unseen will have looked at pictures and videos online and ly taken a virtual tour.

While it might sound odd to buy a home without having set foot in it, more and more home buyers are choosing to do so.

According to recent research by Redfin, a surprising 63% of those who purchased a home in 2020 made an offer on a property they hadn’t viewed in person.

Why remote home buying is increasing

There are several reasons why more buyers are opting to purchase a home sight unseen lately.

“Given the ongoing [coronavirus] pandemic, it makes sense that people make offers on properties without actually physically touring them,” says Rajeh Saadeh, a real estate attorney, investor, and professor.

“After all, people are trying to limit physical contact and going into places where they do not know if any occupants have COVID-19.”

“In hot markets, you must submit offers in minutes or hours, not days” –Bruce Ailion, Realtor and attorney

Bruce Ailion, a Realtor and attorney, agrees.

“The market has changed. People need to move quickly, and touring a home in person before an offer may not be possible. In hot markets, you must submit offers in minutes or hours, not days,” he says.

He points out, “Today, photos and videos are of better quality. And a smart buyer should be able to rely on a high-quality agent or broker to act as their eyes, ears, nose, and fiduciary.”

How to buy a house sight unseen

The process of buying a home sight unseen isn’t too different from a traditional home purchase. You’re simply using online photos, videos, and tours in place of an in-person tour or open house.

Saadeh says the following steps are involved for the buyer:

  1. Evaluate the property remotely using photos, facetime or video tours, and descriptions provided by your real estate agent or broker
  2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage to show the seller you can afford to finance the home
  3. Make an official offer to the seller to purchase the property
  4. If the seller s the offer and accepts it, you and the seller prepare a contract
  5. Both parties sign the contract
  6. You make an earnest money deposit (or ‘good faith money’) in cash
  7. You have the property professionally inspected (optional but strongly recommended, especially for a sight-unseen offer). If you are satisfied with the inspector’s findings, the deal continues
  8. You order a title report. If the title is clear or clearable at closing, the deal continues
  9. You choose a mortgage lender, finalize the terms of your home loan, and lock an interest rate

Then, as with any purchase, you’ll schedule a closing date to sign your final loan documents.

Once the mortgage is finalized, your lender pays the home seller and the home title transfers to you. You’re now the official owner.

Start your mortgage pre-approval (Mar 26th, 2021)

Is buying a home sight unseen a bad idea?

There are pros and cons to purchasing a home sight unseen.

“On the positive side, you may get to purchase the property for a bit less because you moved quickly and avoided a bidding war,” notes Caleb Parr, vice president of Sales and Acquisitions at Renshaw Company Realtors.

Virtual home tours can also be helpful for long-distance purchases, buying a home state.

“Most people end up visiting a home multiple times during the purchase phase. This can cost a lot of money if you are having to travel state to tour the home,” says Nathaniel Hovsepian investor and owner of The Expert Home Buyers.

“You may get to purchase the property for a bit less because you moved quickly and avoided a bidding war” –Caleb Parr, VP of Sales and Acquisition, Renshaw Company Realtors

On the other hand, with a sight-unseen offer, you won’t have the benefit of previewing the property in person.

You’ll have to rely on photos, video, virtual tours, and the descriptions and opinions provided by your real estate agent and home inspector.

“Given that a home purchase is ly the most expensive transaction of your life, it’s important to adequately ‘kick the tires’ and determine the true condition of the property,” cautions real estate attorney Charles R. Gallagher.

“There is great risk in failing to see defects to the property with a sight-unseen purchase, particularly if you choose not to have the home professionally inspected.”

Even when you’re in a rush, real estate experts recommend getting a home inspection to make sure there aren’t any major issues the seller neglected to disclose. An inspection is your one chance to get the seller to cover repair costs — or walk away if the problem is a deal-breaker.

Precautions to take with sight unseen homes

Again, there are risks involved with committing to a sight-unseen home. To minimize these risks, it pays to take special precautions.

“Try to have someone you trust at least drive-by the home and take fresh videos and pictures so that you know what you are getting. It’s possible that these images may more accurately reflect the property’s current condition than the images displayed on a website,” says Parr.

A friend or family member in the area you hope to buy could be a big help in this regard.

Additionally, consider placing a home inspection contingency in your offer.

“A buyer does not have a trained eye to notice or even look for issues and concerns with a home. It’s always prudent to have the property professionally inspected, whether or not the buyer did a walk-through or simply viewed pictures and video before making the offer,” advises Saadeh.

Also — using your agent as your representative — be sure to ask the homeowner about any aspects you aren’t sure about the listing photos and video tours; including home features, appliances, systems, design aspects, or potential renovations.

Buying a house sight unseen FAQ

Can you put in an offer on a home without viewing it?

It’s perfectly legal to make an offer on a home ‘sight unseen,’ meaning you haven’t viewed it in person. Sight-unseen offers are becoming more popular as home inventory remains low and COVID prevents home buyers from touring propreties.

What is a sight unseen addendum?

A sight unseen addendum is part of a home purchase agreement. It indicates the buyer has not seen the property in person, and accepts the purchase terms without an in-person viewing and without walk-through contractual entitlements, per real estate attorney Charles Gallagher.

Can you buy a house virtually?

It’s possible to buy a home virtually. But it has more to do with how your mortgage closes than how you view the home. “Some may define a sight-unseen purchase and a virtual purchase as the same thing. However, a remote or video closing doesn’t involve closing in person, which can happen even if the property is being purchased sight-unseen,” says Rajeh Saadeh, real estate attorney.

How quickly can you buy a house?

The time it takes to buy a home can vary a lot, depending on whether there are competing offers or multiple negotiation stages between the seller and buyer. If everything else goes smoothly, though, the longest stage of the home buying process is closing the mortgage. This usually takes around 30 days.

Do I need a real estate agent to buy a home sight unseen?

No, you don’t need a real estate agent to purchase a home sight unseen. “But it is prudent to use an agent to purchase a home.

You can benefit from this person’s expertise in terms of valuation, deal points, and guidance through the entire transaction,” recommends Charles Gallagher, real estate attorney.

It’s especially helpful to have a professional on your side if you can’t see the home in person, or if you’re a first time home buyer without much experience in real estate.

Should I buy a home sight unseen?

The answer depends on your risk tolerance and the degree to which you perform due diligence on the property. Purchasing a home sight unseen can help you avoid a bidding war and buy your new home more quickly. “But a sight-unseen purchase increases the odds of an unfavorable outcome for the buyer.

You may be saddled with some undisclosed defect that can cost you upwards of tens of thousands of dollars,” says real estate attorney Charles Gallagher.

So take certain precautions.

You should have the home professionally inspected, make sure you’re satisfied with the inspection results, and consult closely with your real estate agent or broker throughout the process.

Can I buy a house as-is?

Anyone can purchase a home as-is. This simply means the “seller has no obligation to improve the property or make it better for the buyer,” Rajeh Saadeh explains. If you’re considering a home listed ‘as-is,’ you should be sure to have it inspected before you buy to make sure there are no major issues you’ll end up paying to repair.

Do I have to be physically present at closing?

The answer depends on the state you live in. Some states require in-person notarization. And some lenders require that a buyer sign documents in the presence of a notary.

If you choose a lender that offers ‘e-closings,’ and live in a state that allows remote mortgage closings, then you do not need to be physically present on closing day.

If there is no loan because you’re buying the home with cash, there is no obligation for a buyer, a seller or a closing agent to be in the same room or even building to conclude a closing. “Everything can be done by mail, email, and wire transfer,” real estate attorney Rajeh Saadeh explains.

What can go wrong at closing?

Issues can occur at closing if you no longer qualify for the mortgage you were pre-approved for. This might be the case if you lost your job or had a negative change to your income or credit score between applying and closing. In this case, you’ll need to re-apply and see if you still qualify for financing.

If not, the deal can fall through.

Other potential issues at closing include problems discovered with the property’s title, a bank transfer of funds that falls through, or document errors.

Consult closely with your mortgage lender, real estate agent, title company, and attorney to avoid these and other problems.

The first step to buying a home

Whether you’re buying a home sight unseen or touring homes the traditional way, the first step in the process remains the same.

You need to get approved for mortgage financing before you can make an offer on any home.

A pre-approval letter verifies your loan amount and your mortgage rate — and it shows the seller your offer is serious. If you hope to move quickly on a home purchase, getting pre-approved first is a must.

Verify your new rate (Mar 26th, 2021)


Your Guide to Buying a House Sight Unseen

How can I buy a house virtually?

Whether you’re across the country preparing for a new job, a military family overseas ready for the big move home, or just can’t get to your desired community for whatever reason, sometimes you’re in a situation where you’re buying a home sight unseen.

Buying a home without viewing it in personisn’t as uncommon as you think, especially not these days, with the help oftechnology and in the era of online shopping. In a 2018 poll commissioned byRedfin, 20 percent of homebuyers surveyed said they made an offer on a homesight unseen.

A similar survey in 2017 revealed thatMillennial homebuyers were the most ly to put in an offer without everstepping foot in the home, with 45 percent saying they had done so, followed by30 percent of Gen Xers and 12 percent of Baby Boomers. Los Angeles, San Diego,San Francisco, Chicago, and Austin were the top five cities in which homebuyersbid sight unseen.

If you’re willing to do the homework andrecruit some expert help on the ground, you can purchase your home sight unseensafely, smartly, and without any hesitation. Here’s our ultimate guide on whatto keep in mind:

Know What You Want, and Share Your Wish List

Some homebuyers have only an ambiguous idea of what they’re looking for, instead relying on that instinctual feeling when they walk into a home – that gut reaction that tells them, “This is the home for me.” Unfortunately, for those virtually shopping, this isn’t an option.

Homebuyers shopping sight unseen need to beeven more clear about what they’re looking for in their dream house, from thenumber of bedrooms and bathrooms to finite details large windows or a bigopen concept floorplan. You’ll also need to consider how close you want to beto goodschools, the transit system, and other amenities.

If you can, visit open houses and model homes in your current neighbourhood to get a feel for the size of home you’re looking for, along with room dimensions, colors, materials and other details you’re most drawn to. Then, when you’re ready to shop online, you’ll be able to picture the homes you saw in-person as you browse listings.

Your must-haves and deal-breakers list will help guide your search, but it’ll also dictate specific parameters you’re looking for to anyone helping you on your home-buying journey, such as a sales agent or your builder.

Rely on Reputation and Research

Doing research can be even more important than visualizing a new home.

“You should do your research on the builder and look at the company website, pages and reviews to learn as much as you can about the builder’s reputation,” says Jerry Sullivan, a Realtor with Century 21 Blue Marlin in Destin, Fla.

Sullivan recommends consulting a Realtor with new-home experience.

“Get in touch with a real estate agent with knowledge about local builders so you can narrow down your choice,” suggests Erin Hungerford, a Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate in Richmond, Va. “Agents who know a lot about local builders can tell you about their reliability and standards, which should give you the confidence to buy a home even if you can’t see the model.”

Recruit a Dependable Team

When you’re shopping for a new build, builders can walk you through the home-building journey, from finding your inspiration to designing your home and all of its features. In most instances, companies build across the country, so while you may not get to walk through your precise lot, if you’re in the U.S., you may be able to walk a similar floorplan from the same builder.

“You can get a sense of ceiling heights, the quality of the hardware and lighting fixtures and what the crown moldings are ,” says Hungerford. “Be sure you have a list of what’s standard and what are upgrades in the home you intend to buy and in the home you’re visiting so you have an accurate comparison.”

Hungerford also adds that visiting a design center can help you get a feel for your fixtures and finishes even when there’s no model home.

“If you see a description of a material or a color and you don’t know how it will look, it’s worth taking the time to Google it to read reviews or to try finding a showroom near you that has it,” says Shawna Kwiatkowski, homeowner of a house bought sight unseen. “I went to a rug store to ask them to show me what the difference was between types of padding for underneath carpeting.”

Even if you can’t touch or see every part of your home, thorough research and advice from trusted professionals can give you a stronger sense of what you’re building.

Go On A Video Tour

As part of your team, you can also enlist a sales representative to schedule video tours, request information on the community, and more. Video tours are crucial to your home buying process – while you can’t physically step into the home, with the help of detailed video walkthroughs, you’ll get a much more intimate glimpse at what you’re buying.

These days, most homes on the market will detailtheir specs prominently in their listings and include an array of photos and avideo tour to guide potential buyers – local or not – through the home beforesigning up for an in-person tour.

Get a lay of the land by studying the lay the home, the measurements of the rooms and the virtual tour.

If you what you see so far, ask your sales representative to set up a “virtual viewing” so he or she can video chat with you from the home via FaceTime, Google Duo, Zoom, or other video chat services, so you can look, point out details, or ask questions. He or she can also do a thorough walk through the home, recording a video for you to look at again.

These real-time walk-throughs and recorded videos are key because your sales agent can provide commentary on what they’re seeing and touching. Some details simply aren’t captured without some narrating.

Make sure to ask your sales representative to take extra photos throughout so you can refer to those, too. It isn’t wise to rely solely on the listing’s photos, which aren’t always an exact portrayal of the home.

With new construction, you can ask the builderto take you through a tour of various model homes to study their differentlayouts and fixtures. You can also ask them for various floorplan blueprints,the materials you can choose from, and color swatches to help with yourplanning.

Scope Out The Neighborhood

Maybe you’ve lived in your destination citybefore, and know what’s around; more often than not, however, those buying ahome sight-unseen are moving to completely unfamiliar territory.

If it’s the latter, Google Maps and GoogleStreetview are resources you can count on to help you get acquainted with theneighbourhood before buying.

Type in the address of your potential home, andlook at the grocery stores, restaurants, green spaces, and community centresthat line the area.

Don’t forget to check for how close it is to your newworkplace, your kids’ school, gas stations, the highway, or other key stops inyour day-to-day life.

Because Streetview and Google Maps are both static images, call again on your sales agent or builder to record a quick video or coordinate a walk or drive around the block and the main street to give you an idea of what the area is . Ask them about their first impressions, the vibe they get from the community, what the neighbors are , and of any other questions that come to mind, such as noise levels, parking, or traffic congestion.

Your home is ly one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make – do your research on the state of the area and its long-term plans.

Look at city council plans to check for planning applications – you can usually search by postal code to decipher if any development is in progress or planned for the future.

You can also check city websites for crime rates, public school rankings and real estate sales to get a rough idea of what you’re getting into.

Do Your Due Diligence

Choosing your new home is just the tip of theiceberg. All homebuyers must do their due diligence before forking over theirdown payment and closing, but this is even more critical for those buying ahome without seeing it in person.

This step involves calling in a string of professionals. This includes paying for a full home inspection and covering fees for notaries and accountants .

Don’t skimp on this step because your line ofadvisors, from inspectors to attorneys and brokers, will protect you throughoutthe process and make sure the transaction goes smoothly.

In most states, thedue diligence period is about two weeks to one month, giving you time to makesure you want to go through with the purchase.

In some cases, and if your abilityto travel permits it, you can add a clause to the sale pending an in-personvisit, too.

Remote Closing

Once you’ve found a home that checks all your boxes and you’ve gone through the rigorous due-diligence steps, even closing can happen remotely. Your will simply receive your contract and all addendums via email, which you can sign electronically. Funds are transferred via bank transfers or wire transfers.

Physical signatures are required, but you cansend these documents via FedEx to complete the process.

Brace Yourself For Move In Day

You may have some unsteady nerves once moving day arrives and you’re moving to a new state, a new city … and a new home.

While you may have seen a model home in virtual tours and through plenty of images, it was ly staged and furnished – and maybe not exactly as your own home.

It may be surprising to walk into a different, completely empty home.

Don’t worry! Instead, get ready now for an array of emotions to wash over you once you step into your house so you’re mentally prepared and ready to hit the ground running on making the space your new home.

Once you get into unloading the boxes and moving furniture into place, you’ll see your home quickly coming together.

Carmen Chai is an award-winning Canadian journalist who has lived and reported from major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, London and Paris. For NewHomeSource, Carmen covers a variety of topics, including insurance, mortgages, and more.


‘It was definitely a gamble’: What you need to know before buying a home virtually

How can I buy a house virtually?

Nora Vanni and her fiancé have lived in Brooklyn for a few years, but their long-term plan had always been to move back to Minneapolis, where they both grew up.

In two weeks, they’re going to be making that move — to a home they bought that they’ve never seen in person. “COVID just sped everything up,” Vanni, 29, told MarketWatch.

The pandemic made moving closer to family a priority for the couple. Originally, the pair were thinking of first relocating to Minneapolis to a rental and then looking for a home to buy in person this fall. But their Realtor encouraged them to start looking sooner. many other parts of the country, more homes are listed for sale in the summertime than during other parts of the year.

“We decided that we wanted to look remotely just in case we found something we really loved,” Vanni said. Eventually Vanni found the home they ended up buying when a “coming soon” listing for it appeared online.

Vanni had her parents tour the property with their real-estate agent — Vanni and her fiancé Hank saw the property over video chat. The couple quickly put in an offer that got accepted.

The couple’s experience buying a home essentially sight unseen is not an uncommon one, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

A Redfin study RDFN, -0.22%  released in late July found that 45% of people who bought a home in the past year had made an offer on a home they hadn’t toured in person. That was up from 28% of people surveyed around this same time a year ago and 20% of people when Redfin first conducted a survey on this topic.

“ 45% of people who bought a home in the past year had made an offer on a home they hadn’t toured in person, according to Redfin ”

That percentage is ly to climb in the months to come.

“I predict that by the end of the 2020 home-buying season, the majority of homebuyers will have made a sight-unseen offer,” Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather said in the report.

“The pandemic has changed the way many people view homes, and on top of that, the market is highly competitive. If you aren’t using this strategy, another buyer who is could beat you to the punch.”

Gabrielle Pinkerton, an event planner who recently moved from California to a suburb south of Nashville, also made an offer on a home her family hadn’t seen in person, though she did tour the home during the inspection. While virtually touring the home saved Pinkerton money, it was a nerve-wracking experience.

“It was definitely a gamble and, for such a large purchase, I wouldn’t normally buy blindly this,” she said. “Our health was more important so we chose not to travel during that time because of the virus.”

With more families across the country ly to buy homes while relying solely on virtual methods to explore the properties, MarketWatch spoke with real-estate experts and home buyers to get advice on how to approach the process.

Picking the right real-estate agent is even more important

Pinkerton’s main tip for buyers was to select a Realtor that’s trustworthy. “Our Realtor knew us from when we lived in California,” she said. “He knew our personalities and he was the best person to represent us in-person when we couldn’t go.”

After all, your real-estate agent will be your eyes and ears during the touring process.

When evaluating potential agents, it can be useful to find one who is experienced in helping people who are relocating, argued Scott Fuller, a real-estate broker and founder of, a real-estate services firm that helps people relocate California. Most agents, he said, are more used to working with people who are moving within a community.

Brokers that specialize in relocation may understand more of the challenges that come along with buying a home sight unseen. “There’s a lot more unknowns and hand-holding involved,” Fuller said.

The best agent will also be one that can act as a “human Rolodex,” Fuller said.

“Can your agent help you to schedule movers and get different moving options and quotes?” he said. “Can your agent help to set up utilities and services is at your home or at least provide contact information for water, gas, garbage and electrical, everything else that you’re going to need to set up?”

Be mindful of ‘analysis paralysis’

Many people are accustomed to browsing sites Zillow ZG, +0.56%   or these days to see what homes are available where they want to buy.

And one of the big benefits of buying a home virtually is that it can actually be a less time-consuming process. After all, it’s easier to set up multiple tours when you don’t need to hop in the car and drive to see all of them.

“ ‘We just had to count on the inspection turning up anything that might be a pitfall.’ ”

— Nora Vanni, a home buyer who purchased a property virtually

But over-browsing can actually make the process more stressful. “The emotional experience of buying a home and looking at it online becomes addictive,” Fuller said. “You tend to spend a lot of time and start focusing on things you necessarily shouldn’t — it becomes analysis paralysis.”

One way to avoid the information overload is to create a detailed list of your must-haves in your new home. Using these to limit your search will help prevent you from getting caught in the weeds.

Request the most in-depth video tour possible

Ahead of the tour, buyers should request a floor plan of the home, said Kelly Gaitten, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices BRK.A, +2.45%  in Virginia. “Think about things as far as the feel of a room,” she said. “What looks good in a picture of the family room might be way too small. So measurements and floor plans are huge right now.”

Ideally, the tour should actually begin well before the agent reaches the front door. Ideally, the real-estate agent should begin the tour while driving up to the home in question, Fuller said.

This will give you a better sense of the neighborhood and local amenities.

If you’re a parent, you may also want to request that the agent drive from the home to the nearby schools to give a sense of how long it would take the kids to get to school each morning.

“ ‘If it’s pretty tight, and the seller knows that one of the buyers hasn’t actually seen it in person, they’re going to lean towards the guy that’s actually seen it in person.’ ”

— Maggie Wells, an agent with Keller Williams in Lexington, Ky

From there, the real-estate agent should show you every part of the home from every possible angle. As the tour is going on, don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as possible — particularly about the things you can’t learn just from looking at a home. Does a room smell moldy or cigarette smoke? Can you hear planes overhead or the neighbor’s dog barking all day?

Real-estate agents will gladly answer questions about these aspects of the home. But keep in mind there are other times when an agent can’t give their opinion.

The National Association of Realtors’ code of ethics prohibits agents from providing subjective opinions on things nearby schools.

“We’re not allowed to steer people on what’s good and what’s bad,” said Maggie Wells, an agent with Keller Williams in Lexington, Ky.

Don’t waive the home inspection

Laws vary from state to state on whether home sellers are required to provide potential buyers with disclosure forms detailing a house’s history and condition. And a video tour can only key a prospective buyer into so much.

Today’s real-estate market may be a competitive one, which can make waiving the home inspection tempting because it can be attractive to buyers. But doing so is a very risky proposition.

Real-estate experts and buyers told MarketWatch that the home inspection takes on renewed significance if you’re buying a home sight unseen. Vanni and her fiancé opted for a more expensive — but more thorough — inspection when they purchased their new home.

“We just had to count on the inspection turning up anything that might be a pitfall,” Vanni said.

When reviewing the report, pay particular attention to expensive parts of the home that could be in rough shape, such as the roof or HVAC system.

Sellers may be biased against buyers who haven’t toured in person

Once it comes time to make an offer, it’s critical that a buyer who hasn’t toured the home in person put their best foot forward in today’s competitive market.

“If it’s pretty tight, and the seller knows that one of the buyers hasn’t actually seen it in person, they’re going to lean towards the guy that’s actually seen it in person, because the person who had seen it virtually could get cold feet,” Wells said.

Wells suggested that when buyers line up financing they choose a local mortgage lender rather than an online lender or a major bank. In her area, many seller’s agents are wary of larger lenders because of the difficulties people can have getting in touch with a loan officer or customer service.

And one common tactic Realtors encourage buyers to take is sending a personalized letter to the seller explaining who you are and what you love about the home. That can be useful in this situation, but Fuller actually recommended taking it a step further.

“What you really need to do is you need to put that to video, so the seller can kind of get that emotional connection,” he said.


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