Purchasing a home virtually has skyrocketed in recent months.
In fact, according to a new report from real estate brokerage Redfin, a whopping 63% of last year’s buyers made at least one offer sight-unseen, never setting a single foot inside the property before putting in a bid.
In total, sight-unseen offers are now up nearly two-fold since 2018, when just 32% of buyers bought homes from afar.
If you’re considering doing the same — purchasing a home virtually from across the state or country, you’re certainly not alone. Just follow these tips to be successful:
1. Know your must-haves and your nice-to-haves.
Sit down and create a checklist. How many bedrooms must the home have? What about closet space, layout, appliances, flooring or other features? Write down all the requirements a house must meet to be the “one,” and then jot down a second section for those nice-to-haves — things you’d like but are willing to forgo if necessary. This will help you weed out homes faster and streamline your search.
2. Choose your agent wisely.
Not every agent is going to work well virtually. Some may not be well-versed in the latest technology or know how to handle virtual tours and closings. Others may simply be too busy to give you the more detailed guidance you’ll need when buying from far away.
For these reasons, you’ll want to be careful about which agent you choose. Interview at least a few, read up on reviews and talk to them candidly about your goals to purchase a home virtually. Make sure your communication styles and schedule are going to sync up before moving forward.
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3. Make sure you have FaceTime, Skype or Zoom downloaded.
These tools are non-negotiable when buying a house virtually. If you’re not going to tour a home in person, you absolutely need to tour it via live video somehow. Though pre-recorded video tours can be nice, going live with your showing can allow you to get more interactive with it. You can take your time, ask questions and even request a little more attention to certain rooms or areas.
4. Ask the right questions.
There’s a lot you won’t be able to see when touring a house virtually, so ask all the questions you can. What condition is the paint in? Could a 6-foot by 3-foot couch fit along that far wall? How is the natural light in the dining room? Get detailed, and ask your agent about things that can only be seen, felt or heard by actually being on the property.
5. Do your research.
Reading a home’s listing is not enough. You should also look up a potential property’s flood, wildfire and earthquake risk, and use Google Street View to “walk” the neighborhood. You can also check the local county’s website for property records. These can give you a good idea of the property’s history and background.
One more step
If you’re hoping to complete your full home purchase virtually — meaning close on your loan from afar, too — then you’ll need to be choosy about your mortgage lender and title company.
Though many companies offer e-closing and remote notary options, not all of them do. You’ll want to shop around and be extra sure you’re choosing a partner who can offer the seamless virtual experience you’re looking for.