While I never advice my clients to buy without looking, however, if you're moving across country, it may be unavoidable. Sight unseen deals are nothing new, but up until recently they were used mostly for foreign buyers, investors, or long-distance home shoppers. These types of remote deals have become more mainstream in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there's evidence to suggest they're more than a passing trend.
A survey from 2018 showed that about 20% of homebuyers had made an offer on a home without seeing it first. A more recent, COVID-19-influenced survey, found that 45% of homebuyers in the last year had made an offer without seeing the property in person. In April of this year, Realtor.com found that "24% of 1,300 consumers surveyed said they'd be willing to buy a home without first seeing it in person."
If you're considering purchasing a home sight unseen, keep these tips in mind:
Work with the right agent
If you're buying a house without touring it first, you have to depend on your agent to be your eyes and ears. It's crucial that you go with a local expert, especially if you aren't super familiar with the area.
Take advantage of technology
Online listings with 3D home tours are up by more than 600% since the pandemic hit. Listings that have this functionality are likely to rise to the top because they give you a better feel for the home. Remember, whether you're looking at a carousel of images or a 3D tour, don't forget to ask your agent to go a step further.
"Once you know which homes you're most interested in, have your agent book some showings and take you along on the tour using FaceTime," said HomeLight. Being able to view the property with someone in real-time will allow you to ask questions while getting an understanding of the "flow" of the home.
Then, ask for a floorplan
Today, you're more likely to find home listings that include a floorplan image. If you don't see one, make sure to ask. While video tours offer an understanding of how a home feels, a detailed floorplan helps you ensure it measures up to your needs.
Knowing the full layout of a home will give you some insight on what day-to-day life will be like. For example, watching a video tour might not reveal the fact that the new home office you're excited about shares a wall with a noisy laundry room. Also, being able to quickly reference dimensions will allow you to imagine how you and your furniture will fit into the new space.
Order an appraisal and a home inspection
Even in cases where they're not required, you don't want to skip these steps. Especially when you can't or don't want to tour a home yourself, having expert and objective documentation regarding the value and condition of the home is more important than ever.