- Hannah Selinger and her husband bought their house in Massachusetts without seeing them.
- For many people, submitting offers without viewing a property was a fact of life in the hot real estate market.
- Insider spoke to buyers and real estate agents on how to navigate buying a home out of sight.
In 2021, when the journalist Hannah Selinger and her husband decided to buy a house in Boxford, Massachusetts, they soon realized they would have to do it without seeing them. They were a six-hour drive away, and in a hot market where buyers often have to beat multiple offers within hours of listing the home, it just wasn’t possible to view the properties.
Five unsuccessful bids later, they bid on a house they’ve only seen on Zillow and in videos taken by their real estate agent. When they actually saw the house, Selinger told Insider she was surprised by “ceilings that were a little lower than expected and one of the bedrooms was smaller than we thought.”
But a year after buying a house without seeing it, Selinger doesn’t regret it. She even said she would do it again.
Although risky, blind buying has become a common occurrence during the pandemic – and it’s not going away. New York real estate agent Jesse Moss told Insider via email, “I’ve sold several properties in Miami without ever seeing the properties myself, never meeting the seller in person, and never meeting the buyer in person.”
These kinds of stories are familiar to real estate agents operating in a market that, if anything, has only become more aggressive since 2020. But with them, these veteran buyers and agents have learned a few things about how to perform. a blind purchase.
Take advantage of technology
and other video chat technologies seem to have become a permanent fixture in the real estate market. Prior to the pandemic, some buyers invested in specific homes and new-build developments based solely on virtual scale models. What has changed during the pandemic is that virtual presence has become commonplace in all facets of life.
When the real estate agent Alyssa Bleau, who bought and sold homes without seeing them, decided to move from New York to North Carolina, his agent provided a showing via FaceTime. But she relied heavily on Matterport, a 3D modeling platform, to visit a 3D twin of her future home and measure the space for furniture.
Since moving to North Carolina, Bleau works primarily with out-of-state clients in the same boat.
Your real estate agent should be your most reliable emissary
In a virtual projection, the real estate agent holds the camera. Buyers need to work with someone they trust not to cut the horrors out of the frame. There are also things that do not appear on the screen.
Barry Weiss of Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage Realty told Insider that it will do just about anything to give its customers a full taste of what they are buying, short of crawling under the house.
“With offers coming in with [non-refundable] filings prior to the full home inspection, our customers rely on us to check for odors, dampness, mold, paint quality, appliance quality, and even if electrical outlets are working,” Weiss said.
When purchasing his 1926 Spanish Tudor home in Glendale, California, Meg Chapham enlisted neighbors and friends both to help with his local house search and to acquire photos and videos of potential homes. Chapham, the chief editor of
The children and family eventually got in touch with the sellers of his house through a neighbor. They were about to put their house on the market, and it came early.
Not only does Chapham love her home after two years, but she’s developed a close friendship with even unseen sellers.
“I want [buy sight-unseen] again, but I’d say we were exceptionally lucky with the previous owners,” she told Insider. “They ended up becoming friends. Their kindness and honesty throughout the process was unmatched.”
Know what your deciding factors are
Although buying a house out of sight is a risk, it must be calculated. Even with the best real estate agents and virtual resources, a buyer who doesn’t know what they want will end up being disappointed.
While real estate agent Weiss successfully sold several homes in Wilmington, North Carolina, he saw one buyer lose a non-refundable due diligence fee because she changed her mind about the property.
“As thorough as we were, she watched the house on video after a rainstorm and felt uneasy about what might happen during a hurricane,” Weiss said. Even though Weiss said he and his partner pointed out to the buyer from the outside early on about the standing water under the house, it wasn’t until after his offer was accepted that she noticed. realized that she was not comfortable with the property.
Conversely, savvy buyers who know their limits are more likely to be happy with a blind-bought home. Journalist Selinger said, “I write about real estate and have a good understanding of what kinds of things are easily fixable and what kinds of things are deal breakers.”
The bad surprises – the low ceilings and the small bedroom – weren’t intimidating because she knew the difference.