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Are ‘Sight Unseen’ Offers Here to Stay?

March 31, 2021

Whether they're trying to get ahead of the competition or have concerns about COVID-19, more buyers are still choosing to purchase a home without ever stepping foot inside. Clients are relying on virtual tours or video walkthroughs from their real estate agent to help decide which home is right for them.

“I see virtual deals as a trend that will only grow,” Ryan Serhant, CEO of the luxury real estate brokerage Serhant and star of BRAVO’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” writes for Forbes.com. Even prior to COVID-19, “people were already getting used to seeing homes through their phones and computer screens—not just in person.”

Over the past month, Serhant says he has sold four properties in South Florida for more than $10 million each without a single in-person showing. The deals occurred completely virtually. In July 2020, the real estate brokerage Redfin reported 45% of its consumers who purchased a home in the past year made an offer on a property without first seeing it in person.

Video walkthrough tours—like those offered by agents via FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Meet—may continue to grow in popularity, saving your clients a trip to view the home themselves. It also provides a competitive edge in markets with limited inventory, allowing clients to act more quickly. These video tours could also grow more common among those shopping for investment properties or house hunting due to job relocation in a different state.

Real estate professionals have become virtual agents, Serhant notes. They’re leveraging technology in more ways to showcase homes virtually to make buyers feel more comfortable buying without having to step foot inside the home first. For example, house hunters are using Google Maps street view and exterior shots as well as HD and 3D listing photos, 360-degree, drag-and-move panoramic room tours, as well as full-house video tours to view homes.

With the added help of technology, real estate professionals are also able to stretch beyond just their local market to appeal more to buyers relocating from other markets and even those from other countries.

“We have clients who don’t live anywhere near us, and showing to out-of-state and foreign buyers over the phone has become increasingly common, pandemic or not,” Serhant writes for Forbes.com. “As agents, we are here to fill in any gaps that technology hasn’t closed; If my client can’t fly in from across the country to see a home, I can be there to see it for her and take her on a tour via FaceTime. If my client wants to buy a home in another country, I can make it happen virtually without requiring him to get on a plane or even leave his home. Serving foreign and out-of-state purchasers is easier than ever before because we can do it without any travel and minimal interruption to the client’s life.”