Now that it’s possible to buy a home online by video tour, buyers need to know what they won’t learn about the house from online exposure and what to do about it.

Research Indicates that 39% of Millennials Are Fine Buying Homes Online

Zillow research indicates that 59% of millennials said they’d be semi-confident about making an offer on a home they’d only seen online.

This could be okay only because potential buyers could still back out of their offer before they signed a contract.  BUT, if those potential buyers actually signed a contract BEFORE they actually saw the house in-person and then backed out of the deal because they didn’t like what they learned by seeing it, too bad.  They’d have to live with their signed contract and the house.

Zillow research also indicates that 39% of Millennials said they would actually buy a house they’d only seen online.

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What Virtual Home Tours and Photographs Don’t Disclose

The reality is that what you see online isn’t always what you get in real time.  Virtual home tours and photographs do not and can not tell the entire story of a house.

Here are a few of the “unknowns” when buying sight unseen:

  1. How the House Smells – Lingering pet odors or smells from a nearby waste-treatment plant or mold odors can’t be detected when shopping online for a house. Ask your real estate agent to screen for odors.
  2. How the House Sounds – Noises are the same as smells…you wouldn’t know about interior and/or surrounding exterior noises such as perennial dog barking or a train horn at a grade crossing unless you heard them. House/neighborhood noises can be deal breakers.
  3. Age and Functioning of HVAC System – Usually, there’s no mention of the age and function of the home’s HVAC system in the listing. If that’s the case, assume it’s old.  Ask your real estate agent to look at the date of the equipment.  If the date isn’t visible, ask your agent to ask the homeowner about the system as well as the water heater.  These may/may not be deal-breakers but they could become negotiable price breaks or seller concessions at closing.
  4. The Neighborhood – One big positive in virtual homebuying is that all neighborhood information is available online. Maps, amenities, schools, shopping, commute times, etc. are all right there.  What isn’t available is how the neighborhood feels.  For that, the buyer would have to visit in-person.

Precautions/Safeguards to Put in Place

Hire a local real estate agent even when buying virtually to be your safeguard.  As stated above, virtual homebuyers can ask their real estate agent to check out odors, noises, HVC systems, the neighborhood “feel”, plus the age of the appliances and the roof on their behalf.  Virtual homebuyers can also ask their real estate agent to find out if the current owner made any renovations on the house and whether or not those renovations comply with local building codes.

Request an inspection contingency as part of an offer and then get the home inspected.  If the house is located in a sizzling hot market, having an inspection contingency as part of the offer may risk the success of “winning” the house.  If that’s the case, it’s all up to the homebuyers’ risk threshold.

Thanks to Millionacres.

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