If you find yourself considering buying a home without seeing it in person first, here are some tips to help you through the process.
Scanning through home listings, researching neighborhoods, looking into schools and public transportation options - the homebuying process can be stressful, even if you eventually land your dream house. Now add to that the stress of not seeing a property before you put in an offer. For some this may sound impossible, but for those moving across the country or on short notice, buying a house sight unseen becomes a necessity. If you find yourself considering buying a home without seeing it in person first, here are some tips to help you through the process:
Enlist a real estate agent
A good real estate agent will be your most important asset and guide in buying a home without a viewing. Do some research and begin working with a real estate agent who works in the area where you're trying to buy and who can guide you through the buying process through signing up for a conventional mortgage. Be upfront with your agent about what you'll need from them and the fact that you won't be there in person. Ask your real estate agent to take plenty of pictures of the home, rooms, exterior and views from the windows.
Videos are helpful, too. Your agent can record videos and send them to you, or use an app like FaceTime so you can take a virtual tour through the house at the same time as your agent. Ask your agent to take pictures and videos of the street, any yard space and surrounding neighborhood so you can get a good feel of the area.
Sketch out a floor plan
Even photos and videos can present an incomplete picture of a house. To help yourself understand the layout of the home, ask your agent if they have measurements or a floor plan for you to study.
If there's not a floor plan available, sketch it out yourself, Chris Stout-Hazard, an interior designer, suggested in an article he wrote for Zillow. Draw a layout with measurements to determine whether your furniture will fit in each room and to understand room placement. Sketching a floor plan can help you understand which rooms face the street, which will get light in the mornings, which rooms share walls and so on.
Send a proxy
If possible, in addition to your real estate agent, send a friend or family member to check out the house in person, advised U.S. News & World Report. While your agent will be invaluable, when you're buying a house sight unseen, the more eyes on the property, the better.
Siblings, friends and family members have the added benefit of knowing you and your tastes and can help you make a decision from far away. Ask your proxy to look out for any improvements that may need to be made, as well as their impression of the neighborhood. They may have better insight into whether the area is quiet enough, lively enough or walkable enough for your liking.
Prepare for some surprises
No matter how much research you've done or how many pictures you've looked at late into the night, you should prepare yourself for some surprises when you open the door to your new home.
Pictures and videos won't necessarily convey every nick on a kitchen cupboard or whether the bathroom is in tip-top shape. You may also experience some shock when you walk in the house and see the rooms bare. Spaces often look much smaller when unfurnished, so don't let your first moments in the home send you into a panic. If you sketched out a floor plan and had measurements in hand, trust that your furniture will fit and start unpacking. By that time the worst of the stress will be behind you, so give yourself some time to adjust and enjoy your new home.