Digital technology is rapidly going mainstream in real estate, and many home buyers are so confident in it that they’re going ahead with their purchases without seeing their new properties in person.
Take the example of one anonymous European buyer, who recently splashed out a stunning $6.3 million to buy an entire island off the coast of the Republic of Ireland. The buyer bought the 157-acre Horse Island without actually seeing it in person. Negotiations for the deal were completed over WhatsApp, and the agent said the buyer only saw a video of the island before making an offer.
In mid-April, a survey of real estate professionals by the National Association of Realtors found that one quarter of respondents had clients who opened a contract on one of their homes without seeing it in person. That was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those buyers are part of a growing group who only see their new home for the first time after they’ve taken possession of it.
And some buyers are even relocating out of state based solely on seeing a home via a virtual tour.
Chad Lail, a professional WWE wrestler who competes as Jaxson Ryker, told CNN that he and his family moved from Orlando to Mooresville, North Carolina, after buying his new home virtually, without ever seeing it in-person.
“It was crazy,” Lail told CNN. “But we had a couple FaceTime calls; we did the home inspection and loved it. With the coronavirus going on, it was easier for everyone.”
Another couple, Jeff and Janet Ralli, told CNN how they shopped for homes in Ocean County, New Jersey, online. Their agent, Nancy Phander, sent them various virtual 3D and video tours of homes they might be interested in, and they ended up making an offer on one without actually seeing it with their own eyes.
"I don't see an upside of doing it in person the old way," Jeff Ralli told CNN. He said the virtual tour enabled him to look at the home whenever he wanted while contemplating his decision.
“When you’re doing a home tour with a (real estate agent) you kind of rush through it, you don’t want to waste their time and you miss a lot of things,” he said. “With the virtual tour, I looked at it over and over again. It is almost like doing a home inspection.”
He explained how he was able to zoom in on certain features in the homes he looked at, and was able to spot details such as the date the furnace was installed, and a small chip in the cabinet hardware molding. He could also look out of the windows from each room.
“I’ve never had a truer sense of what I’m buying before I made a bid,” he said.