Sight-Unseen Offers Are Growing

April 16, 2020

Real estate sales are continuing on within a global pandemic as the use of virtual tools is giving buyers a feel for homes—so much so that some are willing to put an offer on a home without even physically stepping inside.

A quarter of REALTORS® surveyed reported that their clients put contracts on homes this week without physically seeing the property. The survey was released Thursday by the National Association of REALTORS®.

As stay-at home orders keep more Americans physically distant, real estate pros are rushing to adapt their businesses and find ways to still show properties for those wanting to continue on with a home purchase. Virtual tours online are growing more common, whether through video or 3D models, and agents are conducting private video showings via platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or others.

Real estate sales are continuing during the global pandemic as the use of virtual tools is giving buyers a feel for homes—so much so that they’re willing to put an offer without physically stepping inside.

A quarter of REALTORS® surveyed by the National Association of REALTORS® April 12–13 reported that their clients put contracts on homes this week without seeing the property in person.

As stay-at-home orders keep more Americans physically distant, real estate pros are rushing to adapt their businesses and find ways to show properties. Virtual tours online are growing more common, whether through video or 3D models, and agents are conducting private video showings via platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and others.

These virtual options are leading to offers. The brokerage Redfin reported that for the week ending April 12, one in eight Redfin offers were written by customers who viewed the home via video chat. Some of these customers also viewed the home in person after viewing the home on video chat first. Mara Gemond, a real estate professional with Redfin in Virginia, said she’s had three buyers who’ve written offers based on a video tour.

Of those home buyers who put in an offer last week, they had viewed three homes prior, either virtually or in person, according to NAR’s latest Economic Pulse Flash Survey released Thursday. That indicates the buyers who are currently looking for a home are being very decisive and acting quickly. A previous 2019 survey from NAR shows that buyers typically look at nine homes prior to placing a contract on a home.

While some offers are continuing on—albeit in different ways—the real estate industry warns a slowdown is inevitable while the economy is shut down.

“Expect second-quarter home sales activity to slow down with the broad observance of stay-at-home orders, but sales will pick up when the economy reopens as many potential home buyers and sellers indicate they’re still in the market or will be in a couple of months,” says NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Home prices remain stable as deals continue to happen with the growing use of new technology tools. Remarkably, 10% of REALTORS® report the same level or even more business activity now than before the economic lockdown.”

One-third of REALTORS®--or 33%—reported no closing delays from the COVID-19 outbreak. For those who did report delays, the top reasons cited were delays due to financing, appraisals, and home inspections.

Within the multifamily sector, property managers are reporting a surge in tenants who are facing rent payment issues. Forty-one percent of property managers reported being able to accommodate tenants who cannot pay rent, and about a quarter of individual landlords—or 24%—reported the same, the NAR survey showed.