Growing Trend of Buying a House Sight Unseen | Pacaso

Record number of buyers making ‘sight unseen’ offers

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Amie Fisher

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In the spring of 2020, industries across the globe had to quickly adapt to remote ways of doing business. Retail shifted to curbside pickup, restaurants transitioned to takeout and delivery, news anchors broadcast from their spare rooms, and real estate went virtual. With open houses and in-person tours restricted in places, and many buyers and sellers simply wary of walking through unknown houses, consumers turned to alternative ways of viewing and purchasing homes.

Covid-19 concerns boost virtual bids

A Redfin analysis of survey data compiled in June 2020 found that nearly half (45%) of respondents reported making an offer on a home without seeing it in person first. That represents a 17-point jump year-over-year, when only 28% of buyers indicated they had made a sight-unseen offer. 

Redfin’s data is consistent with Zillow's July 2020 survey of buyer preferences. Zillow found that more than a third of buyers (36%) said they would be more likely to buy a home virtually during the coronavirus pandemic, and 30% would still be interested in a virtual purchase even after the outbreak ends.

Low inventory, long-distance moves also influence trend

It’s likely that health and safety concerns are not the only factors contributing to buyer interest in virtual transactions. Intense competition for homes means buyers may lose out if they wait to tour in person. Additionally, remote work opportunities have enabled more people to move away from their office locations, but it may not be easy or practical for them to view homes in another city or state before making an offer. The Redfin report notes that in the second quarter of 2020, a record 27% of potential buyers were looking to move to a different city.

Demand for second homes is also fierce, up 100% year-over-year in October 2020. And for second home buyers who are typically looking at properties outside their city of residence, the ability to make an offer remotely can be more convenient and help them beat the competition. 

A better virtual buying experience

Consumers expect “click of a button” options, whether they’re ordering food, booking an Uber or scheduling a flight. While real estate has remained a largely in-person transaction, consumers still want technology to make the process easier — and it has: Advances in e-signing, drone photography and virtual tours have improved the home buying experience over the past several years, but the pandemic has made technology even more critical. These features help all buyers, but especially those who can’t view in person:

  • 3D tours. 3D or virtual tours help prospective buyers understand the layout of a home and are more immersive than still photos alone. They enable buyers to “walk” through the home, at their leisure, and some virtual tours provide a “dollhouse” view that shows the whole home in 3D at a glance as well as the individual rooms. 
  • Real-time video walkthroughs. While a 3D tour can provide a lot of visual detail, one benefit of in-person touring is the ability to ask questions. Agents can accommodate this for remote clients by walking through the home while using a video chat app like FaceTime or Zoom. Any second home buyer interested in a Pacaso home can schedule a real-time video walkthrough with a local agent or Pacaso rep.  

The Pacaso crew and its Ambassador Agents are second home experts who understand the needs of remote buyers. As we’ve all experienced, we’ve had to find new ways of “being there” without being there — and if you’re ready to imagine yourself as a co-owner of a beautiful second home, view our listings. We can help you explore your options, virtually or in person. 

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