Buying a Home Sight Unseen
Navigating the real estate market can be quite the process for any first-time homebuyer. In 2020, however, the challenges have gone up a notch to accommodate social distancing and healthy practices after the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus earlier this year. Prospective buyers have since looked to virtual showings, videos, and photos to get an idea of what homes they do and do not like. But what do you do when it comes time to buy and you are essentially purchasing a home sight-unseen? Keep reading for some tips to keep in mind throughout the process.
Take Your Time Deciding
Before you begin your search, dedicate time to develop a clear understanding of what you’re looking for in a home. Start by making a list of your needs, wants, and deal-breakers and refer to them as you research your prospective housing market. Then as you search, make adjustments to your original list to ensure that your goals are realistic within the area and price range you are looking for.
For a sight-unseen home, it is necessary now more than ever to have a well-thought-out idea of what you’re looking for. Given that you will not have the luxury of jumping between in-person open houses and relying on your gut-feeling, knowing what you want initially will save you some uncertainty throughout the entire process.
Explore Real Estate Agents
While you may initially look for the most cost-effective real estate agent who can find you the best deal on your home, I suggest taking your time to explore your options. Because your real estate agent will be on the front lines of your home search, it is very important to work with one that you trust. If you can, ask friends and family for referrals of those they’ve enjoyed working with in the past. However, if not, develop your own list of questions to ask when deciding on an agent. Ask about their sales history, references, and expected turnaround time for the entire process.
Hire a Qualified Home Inspector
Similarly, you should hire a reputable home inspector to confirm that the home is livable. Aside from the general home inspection, you may want to explore more specialized inspections for asbestos, plumbing, and the foundation of the home as well. With a sight-unseen home, you will likely have to prioritize the quality of your home inspection to avoid any surprises down the road.
Overcommunicate Your Needs
Clearly communicate the type of home you’re looking for to your real estate agent. If you’d prefer a move-in ready home, for example, it should include upgraded electrical and plumbing, functioning HVAC systems, and relatively new flooring. However, if you are on the hunt for a fixer-upper, you should make this apparent to your real estate agent as well so that they can assist you in exploring home warranty options if necessary. Your real estate agent will also have facts about the neighborhood you’re in and can tell you if it’s smart to buy a fixer-upper in that area because you don’t want to overbuild or own the most expensive home on the street. In any case, describing clearly the type of home you’re looking for will allow your agent to prioritize its typical features.
As you find homes that are to your liking, make a sketch of what you understand the layout of the home to be, and list the features you believe it has. Avoid making assumptions based on the photos you see. Instead, bring your sketch and list to your real estate agent to confirm that you are envisioning the home correctly.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions based on what you would have been able to see first-hand if you were viewing the property. This could include things like the noise-level of nearby highways, internet and cell service in the house, and even concerning smells in the home. Asking these uncomfortable questions can easily rule out homes that would have been deal-breakers had you toured them in person.
Tour the Neighborhood
While you may not be able to go inside of the houses you’re looking to buy, you should still try to explore the surrounding neighborhoods. Take a drive around and get familiar with the nearby schools, shops, and restaurants. If you are buying a home in a different location that you aren’t able to visit, take advantage of tools like Google Earth to get a virtual look at the neighborhood. This is also a great opportunity to connect with your realtor and utilize their resources as well. They can often make recommendations on how to evaluate the location of the home without visiting.
Expect the Unexpected
The most nerve-wracking part of this entire process is walking into your new home that you have never seen in person. Before becoming too overwhelmed, remember to expect the unexpected. Of course, buying a home in this manner is completely different from the traditional process so you should be prepared to experience the home differently as well. Be open-minded and allow yourself time to become accustomed to the space before making any huge decisions. Seek the thoughts of trusted friends and family to better understand if your concerns are valid or simply nerves and uncertainty. In any case, rest assured that you are not the first to ever buy a home entirely virtually and in fact — about 36% of homebuyers say they would do the same. So, ease your mind and address any issues as they arise, but remember that no home purchasing process is perfect whether it’s in person or online.