Who is a Good Candidate for Making a Sight-Unseen Purchase? Who Is Not?
By Deborah Rutter
This is Part 2 of a four-part series about having a successful purchasing experience…without being on site! Click to view Part 1.
In Part 1 of our series, we looked at certain situations that might lend themselves to the idea of purchasing a property without having laid eyes on it first. But beyond the situation for a buyer, what kind of people potentially involved in this type of process are better candidates than others?
First, as a buyer, you have to be comfortable with some ambiguity. No matter how many questions you ask, how carefully you research online, how many videos you watch, or how many neighbors you talk to, nothing will replace being there. As I mentioned in Part 1, this should really only be an option when other options aren’t practical. There is zero substitute for being there.
You are a good candidate if you have been to the area, city, or even potential neighborhoods at least once. If you’re moving for a new job, you’re likely in the buying process because your move is imminent. If that’s the case and you already know you can’t make multiple trips back, focus on neighborhoods, not properties. Properties you see now likely won’t be on the market when you are ready to pull the trigger. Distances, neighborhood characters, the housing stock, and how a street looks and feels is hard to manage. A single property is less challenging.
You are also a good candidate if you are crunched for time, can only make one trip back before a final move, or have financial constraints that make follow-up trips untenable. What you save in money you can make up in time spent doing armchair research at home.
Who is not a great candidate for a sight-unseen purchase? If you know you are the kind of person who:
- micromanages everything (and makes no apologies about it!)
- can’t stand the idea of things not being perfect
- is firm in your belief that you (usually) do things better than anyone else
…you might not be a great candidate. Trust, verification, and a little bit of a leap of faith are par for the course. If you won’t let someone else pick out fruit at the grocery store on your behalf, this probably isn’t for you!
Likewise, you might not be a good candidate if you have a very specific and narrow set of purchase parameters. These might include the desire to walk to work in 15 minutes with curb-cuts along a route with no large hills, or the desire to live in a house that gets good “natural light” (very subjective) and stands in a kid-friendly neighborhood (ditto: very subjective). These things are not just subjective, but when combined, make a property search difficult to manage.
Buyer Agents Can Help
Many of these issues can be mitigated with a trusted partner—in this case, a buyer agent, contracted to look at your financial interests as well as your process and outcome. A local buyer agent familiar with your situation, the market, the housing stock, your timing, and your unique set of circumstances can be your adviser on the ground. They can look out for the interests you express and shed light on those you didn’t know you should have!
Finding a buyer agent you trust isn’t something you can typically manage over the phone in a five-minute chat, either. Recommendations are good, but talking to the agent’s other sight-unseen clients is better. That can help you think of more questions, and can give you an idea of the strength of the potential agent. It also confirms that they’ve actually done this before, not just that they’re confident they can do it!
Next Week in Part 3: using video tools to narrow the possibilities. We’ll uncover how to use all the available tools to begin narrowing down your options.
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.