Buyers feel more comfortable shopping for homes online thanks to innovations such as virtual tours, and growing numbers are even making an offer on a home without seeing it in person.
Redfin said last week that the trend of “sight unseen” offers is reaching record highs, with 45% of buyers who purchased a home in the last year making an offer without seeing it in person first of all. That compares with just 28% in 2019.
In April, another survey by realtor.com found that 24% of 1,300 consumers it quizzed would be willing to buy a home without seeing it with their own eyes.
The trend in sight unseen offers is rising due to health concerns around COVID-19, as well as heated competition among buyers for a limited inventory of homes for sale. Real estate agents are increasingly using virtual tours and video walk-throughs to guide buyers during these times.
Redfin’s chief economist Darly Fairweather said sight-unseen offers will likely become more common in the next few months.
“I predict that by the end of the 2020 homebuying season, the majority of home buyers will have made a sight-unseen offer,” Fairweather said. “The pandemic has changed the way many people view homes, and on top of that, the market is highly competitive. If you aren’t using this strategy, another buyer who is could beat you to the punch.”
Still, most buyers will still go ahead and visit the property in person before they go ahead and complete the sale, experts say.
Deals can prove problematic without an in-person visit. Real estate agents say that some buyers don’t stick to agreed timelines and may submit an offer just to stay in the bidding, before eventually backing out after weighing up their decision. As such, some home sellers refuse sight-unseen offers completely, one Redfin agent said.
“FaceTime is pretty good, but it’s typically better for everyone if the buyer can see the house in person,” said Lindsay Katz, a Redfin real estate pro in the Los Angeles area. “Most people who make sight-unseen offers find a way to visit the home before actually closing the deal, even if it’s just a few days before getting their keys. If the pandemic gets significantly worse, that could change.”