Buying Homes Sight Unseen On The Rise

Redfin recently released a survey of 3,350 U.S. residents in 11 metropolitan areas who had bought or sold a home in the past year. The goal of this survey, according to Redfin, was to better understand the perspectives and experiences of people who were recently in the market to buy or sell a home.

Among the survey results was one very surprising stat: Thirty-three percent of people bought a home in the last year without seeing the home in person (also called purchasing a home “sight unseen”). According to Redfin, that’s up 19 percent from a year ago and 21 percent from two years ago.

Millennials are leading the charge in this emerging trend of buying sight-unseen; according to Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson, millennials are three times more likely than Baby Boomers to make an offer on a home without seeing it in person first. Additionally, they’re more likely to negotiate commision savings (the bonus incentive for a real estate agent). Based on the survey, 41 percent said that they purchased a home sight-unseen, while 30 percent of Gen-Xers and 12 percent of Baby Boomers responded yes.

For those of us who would never make something as big of a purchase as a home without at least seeing it in person first, this may be difficult to wrap our heads around. But new technology and perhaps millennials’ readiness to embrace and trust in that technology, has made it easier and safer than ever to make these big purchase decisions without as many hangups.

The advent of interactive 3D photography, virtual tours, virtual reality experiences, and the abundance of home-buying resources online (like Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, Walk Score, etc.) have made virtual home-touring easier than ever. According to The Wall Street Journal, some real estate agents are even holding home walkthroughs using tools like Skype, Facetime, and WhatsApp. All of this makes homebuyers confident and feel as if they’re actually seeing a property in person.

But according to Redfin, the biggest contributor to the increase in sight-unseen home purchases is the record-fast speed of today’s highly competitive housing market. Based on Redfin’s findings, the typical home that sold in May went under contract in just 37 days. A week faster than homes that were selling a year ago, and the fastest pace on record since at least 2010.

Using Sight-Unseen Data To Your Advantage

With such a big portion of potential home buyers coming from online channels, it doesn’t hurt your real estate business to cater to these consumers, if you haven’t done so already.

Here are a few key things you can do to increase sight-unseen sales and reach long-distance customers:

  • Take your properties online by investing in 3-D home tours and virtual reality. Check out Aceable’s guide for how to take 360° panoramic photos for your own virtual tour!
  • Offer potential long-distance buyers the option to see the home virtually, whether it’s via video-chatting apps or pre-recorded videos.
  • Keep your listings up-to-date with accurate and comprehensive information, as this will increase the buyer’s confidence. Check your property’s profiles on neighborhood information sites like Walk Score, Yelp, and other community blogs and forums.
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