4 Ways to Avoid Remorse When Buying a House Virtually

April 29, 2020

Since the spread of COVID-19, consumers are showing more willingness to purchase a home without stepping foot inside. Twenty-four percent of 1,300 consumers surveyed say they’d be willing to buy a home without seeing it in person, according to a survey conducted this month by realtor.com® and Toluna Insights. Buyers are using listing data, virtual tours, detail photos, and live video walkthroughs with real estate agents as a substitute for visiting the property in person.

But after buying sight unseen, remorse could set in if buyers don’t do their full due diligence. Here’s how real estate professionals can help their buyers move forward confidently with a sight-unseen offer:

Get a sense of the senses. “When you’re house-hunting in person, you’re able to use all of your senses,” Redfin notes at its blog. “You can see the wonderful natural light coming into the living room, you can hear the noisy garage door, and you can smell the pet odors that are still lingering throughout the home. But when you’re buying a house without seeing it, you’re limited to only what is shown digitally.” Real estate pros should be prepared to answer questions regarding the smell of the house (inside and out); noises from the house (including outside, like a train or traffic); whether appliances or any home features look outdated; and the strength of internet and cell phone service.

Show off the neighborhood. Encourage buyers to check out the surroundings. Agents can take buyers on a video tour around the neighborhood or encourage buyers to use Google Maps to virtually walk through the neighborhood and see what surrounding homes look like, as well as get a sense of what is nearby, the Redfin blog notes. Or urge them to sign up for online community groups, such as Nextdoor or Facebook, to get more insights into a neighborhood or community.

Get inspections. Provide contact information for a few reputable, qualified home inspectors in the area. “It’s even more important to have this extra set of eyes from a professional when you aren’t able to see the home in person,” Redfin notes. Buyers may want to seek out additional inspections as well, such as for the pool, radon, or asbestos if the home was built prior to 1980.

Be realistic about a timeline. “Buy a house sight unseen and you’ll likely find yourself navigating the process differently,” Redfin notes. “It’s important to set a realistic timeline with a buffer in case there are any hiccups along the way.” Encourage buyers to prepare all their documents in advance to help in navigating the loan approval process. The loan approval process could take longer nowadays, as could getting any repairs done to the home prior to closing.