Tour homes through video calls

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Home Tours Are Happening Through Video Calls

July 13, 2018

The majority of home shoppers will want to see a place in person before they buy, but some house hunters are increasingly relying on video call tours—through Apple’s FaceTime, for example—to shop for a home, The New York Times reports.

About 20 percent of buyers said they submitted an offer on a home without visiting it first, according to a recent survey by Redfin of more than 1,000 agents. In a survey of 45 New York–based agents, more than half said that they worked with at least one buyer who purchased a primary home without visiting it first, according to a separate survey conducted by®.

Real estate professionals say that sight-unseen purchases may be growing due to the lower inventory of homes for sale and high buyer demand. Houses and condos can go under contract within 24 hours, forcing buyers to make quick decisions. When they don’t have enough time to get to the home in person, they’ll rely on a video call tour. The agent will escort them around the property, pointing out features, as they hold up their phone’s camera.

For investors, buying a home sight unseen is nothing new. But for primary home buyers, this is a newer idea of purchasing existing homes they haven’t physically visited. They’re relying on technology to help them sort through the inventory and find the right home. The technology may be particularly beneficial to out-of-towners who are relocating to the area.

Buyers told The New York Times that their chosen home was exactly how they saw it after touring it via FaceTime and then later viewing it in person after submitting an offer. But sometimes, there are surprises that just don’t translate through a screen. For example, Graham Candish, a Geneva, Switzerland, resident who was shopping for a home in New York via FaceTime with his agent, said the basement was very damp and dark and it smelled “like a basement” when he finally saw the home in person. Still, he has no regrets about buying the home for $1.25 million before ever seeing it.

“There’s an e-commerce mentality sinking into the American consciousness,” Glenn Kelman, the chief executive of Redfin, told The New York Times. “Zappos popularized the idea that you can buy shoes online. I think it’s true for almost any goods in America now. … People want to be able to trade a house like they trade a stock.”

Buying a Home Sight Unseen,” The New York Times (July 13, 2018)