Help Protect ‘Sight Unseen’ House Hunters

person looking at online listing

© SDI Productions - E+ / GettyImages

The pandemic and technology are rapidly changing how home buyers shop for a house. They are driving an increase in buyers who will put a contract on a home without physically stepping inside it.

In the early months of 2020, 25% of real estate professionals reported that their clients had made a “sight unseen” offer. In a recent survey from of 1,500 consumers, 42% of buyers say they would consider putting an offer on a house without physically seeing it first.

Virtual tours, 3D photos, drone videography, and other technology tools are allowing buyers to see inside houses virtually and make them feel like they had been there in person. Buyer’s agents also are increasingly offering video walkthroughs through FaceTime or Zoom of showings to buyers who can't be there in person. 

While more buyers are becoming open to the idea of purchasing a property sight unseen, 38% of consumers surveyed acknowledge that buying in this way can be risky because of the potential cost of repairs. Sight-unseen buyers are increasingly relying on their real estate professional to convey their “opinions, perceptions, and knowledge of the property, and negotiating a contract to give you the most protection,” the survey notes. A professional home inspector also is crucial to avoid surprises, the report adds.

To help buyers purchase a property sight unseen without buyer's remorse later on, recommends the following protections: home warranties, an inspection contingency that provides a way out of a contract if substantial problems are found with the home, and an appraisal protection, since appraisers can also identify and require repairs.