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How To Buy A House Sight Unseen, Regret-Free

6-Minute Read
Published on June 17, 2021
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The past year has brought a boom in the housing market. Economists predict that this trend will continue through 2021. Quarantine has caused millions of Americans to rethink their living situations. Lockdowns encouraged occupants of major cities to seek housing that is spacious and located in suburban areas that are not as crowded. The current supply of homes is not sufficient for the demand, and new construction cannot keep up. This is urging home buyers to waste little time on closing, or e-closing. In fact, according to a Zillow survey, 36% of Americans would be more likely to try to buy a home completely online during the outbreak.

Buying a house sight unseen was once a jaw-dropper. Today, remote home buying has become more common. We have the complete guide to regret-free homeownership.

Should You Buy A Home Sight Unseen?

COVID-19 has forced changes, whether temporary or permanent, in just about all aspects of life, and home buying is no different. With the help of modern technology, REALTORS have adapted to a new way of showing houses. Below are key considerations to keep in mind for buying a house sight unseen.

  • Home staging is an effective way for real estate agents to make a good first impression on home buyers. As restrictions begin to lift, the National Association of REALTORS suggests that buyers narrow their property search through photos, virtual tours, and other technologies to limit in-person showings. With the help of online real estate websites, virtual staging and touring technology have created a strong access point for remote home buyers. Virtual staging is also cost-effective and provides a more detailed visual than pictures and videos.
  • In 2020, two-thirds of people who made an offer on a home had only seen it virtually and not in person. However, there are many things that a virtual tour cannot capture beneath the surface, such as mold, infestation, and more. With houses rapidly leaving the housing market, potential buyers are going to be quick to make an offer. Here are several ways to mitigate the risks listed above, so you can protect yourself during the home buying process.

Look beyond the surface: A virtual tour can be an effective way to visualize your new home or investment property. Yet, if you are purchasing a home long distance, it will be difficult to detect possible mold and water damage. Keep in mind pictures of the home can be altered, may not include all the rooms within the home, and may hide damages. Consider having someone view the home for you to reduce potential risk. If you don’t have a family member or friend near the home you’re considering, it would be ideal to contact a local real estate agent in that area to tour the house and environment for you. You can use applications such as FaceTime, Skype and Zoom to view your future home.

Incorporate contingencies: Adding a contingency in a contract means a certain condition of the home or specific action must be met for the purchase contract to become binding.

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Steps To Take As A Virtual Home Buyer

Sight unseen offers are expected to increase within the next couple of months, according to the Redfin commission survey. Nearly 45% of people who bought a home in the past year made an offer on a property they hadn't seen in person, the highest share since at least 2015, according to the same survey. Below are a few tips to ensure you have a positive home buying experience:

Find A Good Real Estate Agent

An important step in buying a house sight unseen is choosing the right REALTOR because this will impact how smooth the process will go when purchasing. Real estate agents need to be well-rounded in several areas such as negotiation, communication, and proficiency in the current housing market. While it’s possible to buy a home without a real estate agent, buying a home virtually often calls for another set of professional eyes. We listed tips below that will give you insight on what makes a real estate agent stand out and what to avoid during your search.

Qualities Of A Good Real Estate Agent

  • You’ll want a real estate agent who’s knowledgeable of the market you’re interested in. Since your agent will know your price range and priorities for your home, they should be able to show you homes for sale with ease. However, there’s more to the home buying process. Your REALTOR needs to be able to inform you on local schools, the population and any other questions that you may have.
  • A REALTOR must be capable of negotiating the price of the home with the seller. Often, homes can be overpriced and still require improvements, making the home not worth the price. Seek a REALTOR who will advocate for you, to assure you’re getting your dream home at a reasonable price.
  • Besides expertise and communication skills, your agent must have credentials. There’s a difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR. To be a real estate agent requires only a state license, while a REALTORS is real estate professionals who are active members of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) and follow a strict code of ethics.

Get Preapproved

Getting preapproved will increase the chances of getting your offer accepted and help you remain competitive in the housing market.

There are several advantages to providing a preapproval letter to your real estate agent or REALTOR. Doing this ahead of time will increase both the agent's and your confidence that you can afford the home. Currently, the housing market is extremely competitive. Therefore, getting preapproved can help you stand out from the crowd of those who are prequalified.

Take A Virtual Tour

Showings have become more convenient since home sellers are increasingly offering virtual tours due to social distancing guidelines.

Home buyers should take advantage of 3-D virtual tours on a listing page, as well as any other virtual walk-through opportunities. It’s important to look at the focal points of the home, including the kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. However, don’t overlook the smaller parts of the home like fixtures, the laundry room, and storage space. Besides quality pictures and videos, request a digital floor plan to get a sense of the space.

Get A Home Inspection

A home inspection is fundamental if you’re purchasing real estate you've never seen. This will entail a real estate professional looking for possible problems in the home that you might need to address later down the line, which will be included in a report once the inspection is finished. Home inspections are necessary to prevent you from spending thousands of dollars on a house with structural issues. If the inspection unveils extensive damage, this will allow the buyer to adjust the price of the home.

During the inspection, home inspectors will examine several components of a house including:

  • Home structure: Structural elements of the home include the foundation, roof, basement, walls and frames. Common problems include joists being cut too short during construction, natural disasters and settling. Additionally, roofing that has issues can indicate to water damage. Inspectors should look for dry-rotted materials and exposed nail heads.
  • Electrical: Older homes can have outdated wiring.
  • Water damage: Water can affect all parts of the home and lead to expensive repairs. Water damage can originate from poor exterior construction, plumbing or roofing. This can promote the growth of mold and make wood rot.

Ask Local Friends And Family To Take A Look

Consider asking a friend or trusted relative to give a FaceTime tour of the property to communicate sights, smells and sounds that otherwise might not be conveyed during a virtual tour.

Make A Sight Unseen Offer

It's simple: The key to keeping up with a fast-paced housing market is to move fast yourself. Making a sight unseen offer will aid in the process of beating your competition.

To prevent the process from slowing down, consider dropping low-risk contingencies like unappealing flooring but keep high-risk ones in place in order to keep the offer competitive.

E-Closing

An electronic mortgage closing, commonly known as an e-closing, is a client-friendly and safe option that can be completed in a few steps. E-closings are conducted on a secure online portal and grant access to the lender and the borrower to sign off on real estate dealings. There are various ways to leave your signature: you have the option of using a stylus, signing with your finger, uploading a picture of your signature or simply typing your name.

The Bottom Line: The Sight Unseen Offer Is Opening More Doors

Home buying has been altered by COVID-19, with restrictions and social distancing keeping contact at a minimum. We can browse 3-D models of property and even close on a house from the comfort of our homes.

Improve your chances of having your offer accepted by getting preapproved and securing a mortgage commitment letter. During this step, the lender will check your credit score and view your bank statements and other necessary documents before issuing a preapproval. This is important for not only your real estate agent, but for the seller to know that you have adequate funds to purchase the home.

Other key considerations include finding a REALTOR that you trust. It’s also advised to involve an extra set of eyes to visit the property, such as a family member or friend, to make sure the home has minimal damage to reduce contingencies. The final step is e-closing, which requires your signature on a secure online platform.

Buying a house sight unseen is not uncommon and can be done safely. Contact Rocket Mortgage® to help you get started with the home buying process today.

Apply for a Mortgage with Quicken Loans®

Call our Home Loans Experts at (800) 251-9080 to begin your mortgage application, or apply online to review your loan options.

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