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Remote Video Tours, ‘Sight Unseen’ Offers Become the Norm

January 27, 2021

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, home buyers continue to seek ways to stay socially distant as they shop for and buy homes. Indeed, almost two-thirds (63% of nearly 2,000 people who purchased a home last year) made an offer on a property that they hadn’t seen in person—a record high, according to a survey commissioned by the real estate brokerage Redfin of 1,900 home buyers across 32 major markets. That percentage is up from 32% a year earlier.

Home buyers also are increasingly asking their real estate professionals to become their eyes inside by capturing a video tour for them of properties.

A line graph displaying the rise in homebuying offers made sight unseen.

“The virtual home tour is here to stay,” says Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist. “Home buyers who are searching for a home out of town and don’t have the time or ability to view the home in person will use virtual tours as their primary means of viewing a home. The increased use of this technology, coupled with more people relocating, means the sight unseen trend will continue.” Fairweather predicts the majority of home buyers will make offers sight unseen during their search for a home in 2021.

Fairweather says that Redfin agents fielded less than 1% of video tour requests at the beginning of 2020. Now, that is about one in 10. 3D walkthroughs of properties online have also surged.

“Live-video home tours have gone from futuristic fantasy to an everyday part of the homebuying process,” says Mary Ellen Wisneski, a Redfin real estate professional in Connecticut. “Over video, I’m able to show my buyers close-ups of anything in the home and describe peculiar details they can’t experience in 3D walkthroughs or photographs—it’s like they are actually there with me.”