Buying a House Without Seeing it in Person
Posted by Niels Madsen on
If you’ve begun looking for a house or even thought about it, you’ve probably been to websites that show listings in your area. You can see a few photos, check out the walking score for the neighborhood, and book a showing with the real estate agent on the listing.
But what if the house you’re looking for is too far away for you to take that step?
Is it possible to get enough information to purchase the home you want responsibly and without regret?
The answer is, with the right tools, a resounding “yes”!
Powerful Tools At Your Fingertips
Some of the most powerful technology for researching and discovery is right in the palm of your hands. Use your phone to search for the first things you’ll need to know about buying a house without ever seeing it.
Research the builders who handle the job of building or renovating the house, the schools and other public works in the area, and the neighborhood in general.
Join groups on social media for the local area to which you plan to move. The people that live there could have the most valuable information about what it’s like.
The job of most informational websites is to give straight facts, but that won’t always tell you exactly what it’s like to live where you’re planning to go. Social media can also connect you to local news websites and even video content about the town and neighborhoods you’re considering.
Use Technology to Communicate
As you discover things, put them into a document or spreadsheet that you can share with your real estate agent. This will put all your likes and dislikes about every neighborhood and property in one place for them to see. What that does is help your real estate agent figure out the best place or property to show you next.
It also shows you what you’ve already researched so you don’t waste your time going through the same information over and over.
Use spreadsheets/apps to also keep your information about loans and budgets available for you and your real estate agent. This helps you both keep your prospects realistic so that you’re not looking at something that’s wildly out of your price range only to be disappointed later.
Some properties have these recorded for you to look at whenever you like. Others want you to make an appointment to do a live video tour. Either way, this is an important part of figuring out what the property you’re looking at is like without being able to see it in person. In many cases, it's pretty much just as good as being there yourself!
Before you even decide to request a video tour, check Google Maps. Google Street View can show you what’s close by and you can even see these views of the entire neighborhood and other places close by.
When you don’t have anyone at your new destination to take you through the area on video, the satellite views can be a good substitute. But be sure to check the dates the views were taken to see if they’re up to date before you make any decisions. The one con to satellite views is that they could be showing you an old picture.
For our properties we usually do a combination of Google Maps views and interior shots, so you can really get a feel for the place before deciding to move forward.
What Are Your Priorities?
Do you enjoy local restaurant fare? Do you like antiquing? Farmers Markets? Bulk buying your snacks? Singing karaoke? Going to the library?
There are a million things you do in a day that you may not think about while you’re looking at your potential new neighborhood.
Buying a house unseen isn’t about just the house, though. You’re looking to live in this place and that means, if you love going to Farmers Markets, you probably don’t want to live somewhere that is a long drive away from one.
When looking for a new house, people often focus on the statistics of the area, but they don't tell you everything. You may want to know if it’s a good place to raise children or a quiet spot for a person who enjoys hearing the sounds of the birds in the morning. If you love books, you may not want to live somewhere that doesn’t have a public library close by.
Make a list of all these things that matter to you and consider that list when you’re researching the neighborhood.
More Than Due Diligence
It is absolutely possible to buy a house without seeing it first, but it stands to reason that there are some things you’ll have to research beyond the basic due diligence.
Make your lists, organize what you want into smaller and easy to digest bites of information, and share it with your real estate agent. Use these points to research a little further than simple statistics when you’re considering a property and neighborhood you’ve never been to and won’t be able to see before you move.
Use social media, the news, and everything else you can think of to research the area before you make your decisions. With technology, everything is possible!