Back before the days of the Internet, FaceTime, and going live through social media apps, the only way for a potential home buyer to see a home for sale was to physically visit it in person to do a walk-through. There would be open houses or mutually agreed upon showing times between buying and listing agents and potential buyers. However, this is no longer the case.
As technology advances, as pandemics wear on, and as buyers are forced to act quickly on home purchases due to hot real estate markets, gone are the days of strictly relying on in-person home visits to secure a house. According to NerdWallet, “almost two-thirds (63%) of homebuyers in 2020 made at least one offer on a property without visiting it first, according to a survey of 1,900 home buyers.”
Buying a home, sight unseen can feel daunting and overwhelming. Whether you are a military family relocating and don’t have an option of doing an in-person viewing or you simply prefer the convenience of utilizing technology, below are four things to keep in mind should you need to buy your next home site unseen.
Take Advantage of All Possible Technology Tools
These days, many people rely on listing photos from commercial sites like Zillow.com and Realtor.com to get a visualization of their next potential home. This can be a great starting point, but shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all of home imagery. Not only are listing photos used on these sites potentially out of date, it is important to realize that listing photos can also be edited, retouched, or shot with cameras that utilize wide-angle lenses that distort reality. If you plan to purchase a home sight unseen, be sure that you also follow up with the listing agent or real estate brokerage who holds the listing. If it isn’t already provided, ask for a virtual 3D tour, a live walk-through using video technology like FaceTime or Skype. Sites like Google Earth can help give you a birds’ eye view of what surrounds the property on all sides, including a topographical look at the lay of the land. Neighborhood Scout, Best Places, Niche, and WalkScore can also help fill in details and create a better overall picture of the area and neighborhood as well.
Make Sure You Hire the Right Real Estate Agent
Besides technology, your number one best asset when purchasing a home sight unseen is a licensed real estate professional. He or she has a legal and ethical obligation to work on your behalf and shoot straight with you about the condition of the house. Establishing a good rapport and relationship with a real estate professional is key as they will be your liaison between the property itself and the sellers’ agent. Not only can a real estate pro offer you clearer insight on the surrounding area, schools, and quality of life, he or she can also help you get a better grasp on current market values. If the home you are hoping for sells faster than you can act or completely falls through, a realtor can help connect you to other available homes for sale in your desired area and price range.
Enlist an Unbiased, Extra Set of Eyes
If you have the time and resources, it isn’t a bad idea to enlist the help of a paid service to act as a liaison or stand-in for you prior to making an official offer on a house. Services like those provided by Millie Scouts (for military families) offer invaluable help for things like house and neighborhood reviews as well as property walk-throughs and photo shoots. Spending a little now could save you thousands if not hundreds of thousands later. Scouting services may give you insights on key aspects of the home condition that might just turn into points of negotiation on the home price offer. While this isn’t meant to be an official inspection, informally, having additional information from an unbiased source could help you either seal the deal or help you to walk away from a big mistake.
Know Your Legal Rights
Finally, if you are planning to make an offer or purchase (or even rent) a home sight unseen it is vital that you know and understand your legal rights. By including contingencies in the contract, you may help to protect yourself and your investment if, perhaps, during the inspection, appraisal, or due diligence process new information and details about the home are uncovered. Don’t be afraid to ask around or research locally to find home inspectors and attorneys that specialize in sight unseen real estate transactions.