Home Buyers Are Still Making Offers ‘Sight Unseen’

July 21, 2020

Some home buyers are feeling confident enough to proceed with a home purchase after a virtual tour. The latest sight unseen mega-deal occurred last week for a private island off the coast of Ireland. An anonymous European buyer purchased the entire 157-acre island, known as Horse Island, for more than $6.3 million without ever seeing it in person. Negotiations mostly took place over WhatsApp. The agent said the buyer viewed a video of the island before making an offer.

During a week in mid-April, as the COVID-19 pandemic heightened in the U.S., a quarter of real estate professionals surveyed by the National Association of REALTORS® reported that their clients put contracts on homes without physically seeing the property.

For a growing group of buyers, the first time they walk into a home is after they buy it.

Some buyers who are relocating from out of state are turning solely to virtual tours to help make their decision.

Chad Lail, a professional WWE wrestler known as Jaxson Ryker, moved his family from Orlando to Mooresville, N.C., and did the sale completely virtually—without viewing homes in person.

“It was crazy,” he told CNN. “But we had a couple FaceTime calls; we did the home inspection and loved it. With the coronavirus going on, it was easier for everyone.”

Likewise, Jeff and Janet Ralli shopped for homes completely virtually in Ocean County, N.J. Nancy Phander, the couple’s real estate agent, sent them virtual 3D and video tours of homes. They ended up putting in an offer on a home without ever going there physically.

"I don't see an upside of doing it in person the old way," Jeff Ralli told CNN. He says with the virtual tour, he could look at the home whenever he wanted as he made his decision. “When you’re doing a home tour with a (real estate agent) you kind of rush through it, you don’t want to waste their time and you miss a lot of things,” he says. “With the virtual tour, I looked at it over and over again. It is almost like doing a home inspection.”

He was able to zoom in on features within the virtual tours, including being able to spot the date the furnace was installed and a small chip on the cabinet hardware molding. He also was able to look out the windows from each room.

“I’ve never had a truer sense of what I’m buying before I made a bid,” he says.