It may seem impractical to purchase a home sight unseen, but one in five buyers have made an offer on a property without ever visiting it, according to a recent BusinessWire survey of 2,134 Americans. It’s a risky way to buy, so for those who can’t be there for an in-person showing and need to rely on the Internet to come to a purchase decision, here are a few tips to help them feel more confident that they’re making the right choice:
- Get a bird’s eye view. Buyers should not only look at the home but also the neighborhood and surrounding area. “I recommend [buyers] look at Google Earth and do Street View to get a good feel for their area,” says Benjamin Beaver, an agent in San Angelo, Texas. Beaver says that he’ll do a video tour of the neighborhood for his clients to pinpoint any possible noise issues, such as from a nearby highway, that wouldn’t be identified through online listing photos. Video tours also allow buyers to see every angle of the home itself — not just the most flattering ones depicted in listing photos. “I think it gives buyers that confidence of OK, I know what I’m getting here,” he says.
- Hire an inspector. A home inspector can uncover any potential problems, but they are usually hired after an offer is made. For remote buyers, however, you could ask an inspector to skim the home’s online photos, and they may be able to spot glaring issues sellers are trying to hide, says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Also remote buyers should ask an inspector once they are able to do an in-person evaluation about any odor issues, such as from a dank basement. Those are issues remote buyers can’t identify for themselves online.
- Request a walk-through contingency. Negotiate a walk-through contingency into a contract, which will provide a safeguard if the home doesn’t measure up to expectations in person. The buyer will then be able to walk through the property before signing papers at closing. But as is the case with any contingency, sellers don’t have to agree to it and may demand a higher purchase