What is a Sight-Unseen Buyer? And Why In the World Would You Want to Do That?
By Deborah Rutter
“Wait, you bought a house without ever going inside?” It’s a common refrain some of my buyer clients have heard over the years. Most people wouldn’t buy an avocado online, much less a property, but it can be done—and done successfully. With a solid strategy, a trusted agent, and a few pieces of technology, it’s not as daunting as you might imagine. This is the first in a four part series about managing expectations and having a successful purchasing experience…without being on site!
First, a definition. What is a sight-unseen buyer? In general, a purchaser or purchasers putting an offer on a house before actually laying eyes on it. Maybe you’ve been to the city before, or to the area of town, or maybe you’ve driven through the subdivision or even driven down the actual street. Maybe you haven’t done any of those things! In any case, you’ve never actually been inside the property prior to making an offer. You might be able to see the property AFTER an offer is accepted, during a visit to town, or maybe during the inspection process, but for our purposes here, it’s all about writing a contract on a property you have never visited.
Who would do that?
For buyers who haven’t done this or who cannot imagine why anyone would take such a risk, let’s look at who might need or want to take this approach:
- A military buyer on deployment, coming home and/or starting a new job, who needs to settle quickly with or without a family in tow.
- A cross-country buyer hired for a job who can’t make more than one trip to town before their starting date.
- A family with elderly relatives or special-needs family members who cannot travel easily or often.
- A family with many young children for whom travel is a challenge.
- A buyer who can only make one trip, but decides to come for the inspection instead.
- A buyer in a hot market where properties are on (and off) the market in hours or days and coming in person would be impractical and untimely.
- A second-home buyer who will occupy a property only minimally.
- An investor or speculator.
Any of the above situations might make it faster, cheaper, and more practical to NOT be on location prior to writing an offer. Think about your situation. Who are the decision makers in your process? Who do you need to please or inform as part of your process?
But let’s be clear. This is an option best employed for a reason that shouldn’t include laziness, lack of commitment, or just plain indifference. Buying sight unseen is a realistic option, but it’s not as preferable as checking out a property in-person first. When that can’t be done quickly or practically, this can be another option.
Next week in Part 2: Who is a good candidate? Who is not? We’ll look at which buyer types make sense for this kind of approach and which are less ideal!
Deborah Rutter is an Associate Broker at Nest Realty with passion for teaching. She knows buyers and sellers make the smartest decisions for themselves when they are armed with data and insight. She has taught first-time homebuyer education classes, and is a featured contributor on our blog.