Helpful Tips for Buying a House Virtually

Are you considering buying a home sight unseen? Lots of people are buying homes virtually today. Technology is so advanced you can actually buy a home from your living room, in another part of the country, while on your computer or phone.  Here are some great tips for buying a house virtually if you plan to go that route.

Would you buy a house without seeing it first?  It may not be for everyone, but many people have and will continue to do so, as this is the year that dictates it.  Welcome to the world of technology!

Find a Buyer’s Agent

The first and best tip for buying a house virtually is to find yourself a great buyer’s agent.  Read their reviews.  Talk to them.  Make sure they’re local and that you’re a good fit for this person.  This is so important.  You want someone local who really knows the area.

Since you will be working closely together with this person, albeit virtually, by email and on the phone, you want someone you like and trust.  Only you know your comfort zone.   And you need to be comfortable with your agent, and they need to be satisfied with you. It’s a two-way street.

Don’t bother calling the listing agent.  The listing agent has a contract with the seller to get them the highest price possible.  How can that possibly benefit you as a buyer?  It doesn’t!   Same thing with builders.

In their offices are very nice salespeople, but guess who they work for?  Right!  The builder!  Not you, the buyer.  So do yourself a big favor and hire a buyer’s agent. They’re free to you.  It’s good to have someone watching out for your interests.  It will not only save you time; it will likely save you a lot of aggravation, too.

Another suggestion, don’t rely on property portals.  They’re sufficient for looking at pictures of homes, getting notified if a house comes on the market, but they aren’t local, and they cannot answer many questions.  For example, can a portal sit and explain the area, what’s included in your homeowner’s fees or if a community will accept your pets.

They rely on the multiple listing service, which can and often do have mistakes.

Get Pre Approved

You must get pre-approved if you’re planning to finance a home.  This is a critical step in order to move forward, whether you are buying a home virtually or in person.  Odds are your agent knows good lenders they’ve worked with before and can recommend some to you.

Maybe you already have one.  That’s fine, but you cannot buy a home unless you’re pre-approved.  In fact, since the pandemic started, many sellers and builders will not allow you to tour a home unless they know you’re pre-approved.

You know you have great credit, but sellers and builders don’t know you.  If your agent goes to submit an offer on your behalf, you must have a pre-approval.  It’s like the old saying goes, “Show me the money!”   Sellers will not even consider an offer without knowing you’re qualified to buy the home.  So take my advice and get yourself pre-approved for a mortgage. Pre-approved, not pre-qualified.

Determine Your Needs and Wants

Make a list of your must-haves and another list of things that may be negotiable.  For example, your must-have list may be the property must be in a particular city or town, must have a garage, must have three bedrooms, must have good schools, must be pet friendly, must be in a gated community, must be in a 55+ community and so on.  These items are essential and non-negotiable to you.  With so many people working from home, a home office may also be a top priority.

Next, make a list of items you’d like to have but may be a trade-off.  In other words, things you are willing to bend on to get the home you want.  Your would-like-to-have list may include a water view, a certain lot, inground pool vs. community pool, that 4th bedroom, or many things.

With low inventory, your agent needs to know precisely what you’re looking for. They can eliminate homes that definitely won’t work and find others that may.  Good agents do a lot of research on where a property is located, schools, permits, age of the roof, age of the major systems in the home, and more. No time is wasted.

Tips to Buy a Home Using Virtual Tours

Virtual tours work great when buying a home from afar.  This can be done by FaceTime, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and other apps.  However, arrangements must be made for virtual tours.

Your agent will take care of this and coordinate with your schedule.  There are things to work out, such as if a home is occupied or vacant, will they have to meet a listing agent, and when you are free.  If several properties are going to be seen virtually in one day, making a schedule is vital.

Your buyer’s agent is very skilled at this.  They will educate and prepare you in advance.  If you are not familiar with the area, they can highlight a map and label communities, schools, shopping, whatever is of importance to you.  They can give you an idea as to location and what is near the house.

It’s a good idea to see the neighborhood and what is in proximity to the house you are looking to buy.  When I say home, I include condos, townhouses, and villas, as well.  They may even be able to obtain a floor plan, if available.

Virtual tours are an essential tool in today’s world of real estate and coronavirus.  For a seller, it cuts down on the number of people walking through their house.  Some sellers are afraid, so the fewer people, the better. Masks and sanitizers are mandatory.

Gloves and booties may be required, and the fewer people in a home, the better.  For a buyer, it allows them to view the house from afar, to go inside and tour the home, see the layout, rooms, condition, and more.  Is the home in good condition?  Buyers can ask questions during a virtual tour.  It’s like they’re actually touring the house with the agent.  And they are – except virtually!

Submit Your Offer

You’ve found a property you like and works for you.  Great!  Now it’s time to submit an offer, which must be accompanied by your pre-approval or proof of funds if it’s a cash purchase.

You may find yourself in a multiple-offer situation.  Your agent will want to get your offer submitted in a timely fashion with all accompanying documentation.  If you end up making an offer on a home with several offers, take my advice, literally don’t waste time.  Go for it.

Some buyer’s agents will have you write a letter to the sellers introducing yourself, why you would like to live in the home and how you will take good care of it.

Each state is different.  Consult your real estate agent for how offers are submitted in your state.  Some states are attorney states, while in other states, the agents write proposals.

If your agent writes the offer, this can be done on Saturday night at 11:00, if necessary.  Remember, don’t waste time.  While you’re thinking about it, those other offers may be being considered by the seller.

Recommend a Home Inspection

One of the best tips for buying a house virtually is not to waive a home inspection.  Despite multiple offers that may be coming in and the pressure you may be feeling, a home inspection is essential and money well spent.  A condo or house is one of the biggest – if not the biggest – purchase you will make in your life.  You need to know what you’re dealing with.

Every house has something – even brand new homes. And yes, you need a buyer’s agent and a home inspection for new construction, too.  You want to make sure the major systems, the high-ticket items are functioning and that the house doesn’t have mold or radon, or that it needs a new roof.  Would you want the house if it had them?  Maybe yes, maybe no, but at least you’ve been made aware of the condition.

Some inspection issues can be worked out between buyer and seller, but you must know what you’re dealing with first. You may decide to put a new roof on, but it won’t come as a surprise after closing.

See House in Person

You have now seen the house virtually and gathered a lot of information about it, the neighborhood, schools, and more.  You have submitted an offer that has been accepted.

Are you satisfied with seeing the house virtually?  The other options are to fly or drive to view the home in person.  This is a personal decision you have to make.

Some people will fly down while others won’t.  It’s a matter of what you’re comfortable with.  I have had people do both.  Some people fly down to double-check they’re happy with the home, and some people are satisfied with having bought the house virtually.  There is no right or wrong on this one.  It’s your call.

Close on The Home

Congratulations!  Your offer has been accepted.  Home inspections are complete.  You’ve worked out the details with your agent and the seller.  You’ve got your mortgage.  Now you’re just waiting to close.

Since you’re out of town, you may decide to close in person, or you can close by mail.  It’s your choice and whatever works for you, whatever you’re comfortable with, is how it will be done.

Final Thoughts on Buying a House Virtually

The way you can buy a home is changing.  The world is changing.  Technology connects us all. Of course, there are still people who want to actually view homes in person before buying one, and that’s okay.  Buying a house virtually may not be for everyone.  But, the option is there.  It’s very real, and it’s happening.  People are buying homes without seeing them first.  The pandemic has brought it to the forefront.

Ultimately, you have to decide what will work best for you.  There is no right or wrong way.  Buyers have to feel comfortable.  If you’re comfortable buying a home after seeing it on video or virtually, phone calls, emails, or maybe even Zoom meetings, these tips will be useful.

Elyse BermanAbout the author: The above article on virtually buying a home was written by Elyse Berman.  Elyse is a seasoned REALTOR® in Boca Raton, FL, as well as a retired court reporter.

She focuses on pet-friendly real estate helping buyers and sellers.  She also helps people who have no pets!  A local resident for 26 years, her knowledge of the Boca/Delray/Highland Beach/Boynton Beach real estate market is extensive.

Areas of service include Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Highland Beach, Boynton Beach, and surrounding areas.