What to know when buying a house sight unseen

Published Date: June 7, 2023

A person researches buying a house sight unseen on their laptop with their child sitting on their lap.
What does it mean to buy a house sight unseen?Buying a house sight unseen means purchasing a property without touring it in person.
After weeks (or months) of browsing online, you’re confident that you’ve found your dream home. But what if timing or distance prevents you from viewing it in person? Sight-unseen real estate purchases are becoming more common — especially in competitive markets and sought-after destinations. We’ll walk you through each step of how to buy a house sight unseen, discuss the pros and cons, and share tips on how to determine if the home is right for you.

How to buy a house sight unseen

A graphic shows the eight steps to buying a house sight unseen.
To a buy a house sight unseen, you'll do a virtual walkthrough and experience the home using pictures, video clips or 3D models instead of being physically present. These steps to ensure you have a smooth and positive experience with buying a home (or second home) sight unseen.
More than a third of Pacaso sales in March 2023 were booked for purchase sight unseen, marking the highest level since January 2022.

1. Work with a trusted real estate agent

An important step to buying a house virtually is having a good real estate agent. A qualified and experienced local agent can help smooth out every step of the purchasing process and provide expertise in negotiation, communication and knowledge of real estate and community where you plan to buy.

2. Get pre-approved

Pre-approval involves determining how much money you can borrow to buy a home. Getting pre-approved can help you stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of your offer being accepted.

3. Take a virtual tour of the home

When you buy a home sight unseen, you should take advantage of all virtual tour opportunities to get a complete picture of a home. This can include:
  • Taking virtual tours
  • Conducting online walkthroughs
  • Joining virtual open houses
Look at all the home’s details and features to hone in on your needs and determine if the home meets all your requirements. 

4. Get a home inspection

A home inspection is crucial if you’re purchasing a home you’ve never seen in person. An inspection should uncover any current and potential issues, including electrical or structural problems and water damage. This is especially valuable if you’re buying a second home that you’ll need to maintain and manage from afar.

5. Ask friends or family to tour

Consider asking a friend or family member in the area to tour the home in person, with you tagging along on the phone. They can help you experience the home, get a feel for the place and get answers to questions in real time.

6. Make a sight-unseen offer

A sight-unseen offer isn’t too different from a traditional home offer. Once you have a pre-approval letter, you will need to decide how much money to offer and how much to put down. Your agent will help work through contingencies and negotiations to keep your offer competitive.

7. Secure financing

If you’re looking to finance a portion of your purchase, you’ll want to work with banking partners and lenders. Save time by securing your financing before you make a sight-unseen offer. 

8. Close on your home

To close on your new home, you will virtually sign purchase agreements and other paperwork including the inspection report, seller disclosures and any other documents relevant to your purchase. You or your lending institution will then wire your funds and complete the home purchase.

The pros of buying a home sight unseen

A graphic shows the pros and cons of buying a house sight unseen.
Buying a home is an important decision — especially if you haven’t seen the property in person. However, buying a house sight unseen offers distinct advantages. 
  • You can move fast. If you’re looking to grab a home in a competitive market, buying a home sight unseen allows you to move quickly.
  • It offers convenience. With virtual tours and walkthroughs, you're able to see a home at a time that works for you from wherever you are.
  • You can save on expenses. You can save both time and travel expenses by browsing and purchasing a home completely online. This is especially helpful if you’re buying a home out of state, since you likely don’t have time to physically visit the home. 
While other buyers might be scheduling in-person tours, you’re already viewing the home of online and putting in an offer, saving you time and money.

The cons of buying a home sight unseen

Although buying a house sight unseen has its benefits, there are potential cons to putting an offer on a home you haven’t seen in person.
  • You’re missing the vibe. While a video walkthrough or 3D tour is helpful, it can be difficult to gauge the size of rooms and how the home feels without being there in person.
  • You won’t get a feel for the community. Unless you’ve previously visited the community where the home is located, you might not know if the neighborhood is right for you.
  • You can’t experience home amenities. Virtual tours don’t let you capture the full experience of a home — you can’t dip a toe in the pool, sit down by the fire pit or enjoy the other luxury amenities that make it easy to say “yes.”
Now that you know the pros and cons of buying a house sight unseen, let’s explore the factors that determine whether or not you should make a sight-unseen buy.

How to determine if you should buy a house sight unseen

Buying a house sight unseen is not for everyone, but it can be done with careful planning and communication. Before making a sight unseen offer, take the following measures to ensure it’s the right choice for you:
  • Send a trusted representative on your behalf
  • Request an inspection contingency
  • Request a second walkthrough contingency 
  • Be sparing with sight-unseen offers to blacklisting
When determining if you should buy a house sight unseen, it’s important to know what can potentially go wrong. If you are proactive and diligent with your research, you can score your dream home even if you can't visit it in person. Although buying your primary (or second) home can be stressful at times, buying a house sight unseen doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking. Follow each step of the process, carefully weighing the pros and cons, to determine if this is the right strategy for you.If you’re ready to buy a second home at a fraction of the cost, consider the benefits of LLC co-ownership. This is a great way to own a vacation home, and with Pacaso, you can co-own a luxury second home that is professionally designed and fully managed.

Buying a house sight unseen FAQ

Is buying a home sight unseen a bad idea?

Buying a home sight unseen isn’t a bad idea if you have a plan. Consider working with a local real estate agent who has experience with sight-unseen offers and knows the community. An agent can help create contingencies to protect you if the home isn’t exactly what you hoped for.

Can you put in an offer on a home without viewing it?

Yes, you can put in an offer on a home without viewing it. A real estate agent can help you through this process. However, it’s always a good idea to check state and local laws beforehand.

What is a sight-unseen addendum?

A sight-unseen addendum is a document buyers sign when they make an offer on a property without seeing it in person. It states that the buyers are aware of the risks and limitations of buying a property if they are unable to inspect it, and that they accept the property as is.

Do I need a real estate agent to buy a home sight unseen?

No, you don’t need a real estate agent to buy a home sight unseen. However, a real estate agent with experience buying homes virtually can be a great asset during the process.

Do I have to be physically present at closing?

Check your state’s real estate laws where you are buying the home to determine if you need to be physically present at closing.

headshot of writer Tony Huynh

Tony Huynh

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