Today, more buyers are making offers on homes sight unseen. The reasons for this include being too busy for physical shopping, living on the other side of the country, feeling totally comfortable with online purchases, or preferring the safety of physical distance. Here are some tips for buying a house sight unseen.
- Be absolutely clear what you’re looking for. Sit down and make a detailed list of all your needs and wants, including square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, proximity to schools and transit, size of windows, type of floor coverings, etc. Visiting local open houses in person will help you identify your likes and dislikes. Then all you have to do is plug these criteria into a search engine.
- Study all the photos, videos, floor plans, etc. Online technologies have improved so much, it’s easy to do a virtual walkthrough of a home.
- Walk the neighborhood online. Google Maps and StreetView allow you to walk nearby streets watching for shopping, parks, schools—and less welcome neighborhood attributes, like graffiti and boarded-up stores.
- Work with an on-location Realtor. It’s essential to have a local expert on your side. Aside from inside knowledge, your Realtor can use FaceTime or Zoom to walk you through a home, focusing on features you want to know more about. You can also get a more detailed sense of the neighborhood in the same way.
- Don’t skimp on due diligence. Since you haven’t actually set foot in the house, nail down every other detail. Pay for a full home inspection, work with the best attorney and mortgage professional. If time and budget allow, add a “sale pending an in-person visit” clause.
- Close the deal remotely. Almost every step of the buying, financing and legal process can now be accomplished via email, e-signatures, electronic bank transfers, etc. And when a physical signature is essential, the documents can be couriered.
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