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8 Tips for Buying a House Online – Without Visiting It In-Person (“Sight Unseen”)

From clothes to grocery shopping, almost anything can be done online these days — even buying a house. In fact, a recent survey by Businesswire revealed that 1 in every 5 home buyers made an offer on a home without physically visiting the property. So if you’re interstate or overseas and need to buy a house ‘sight unseen’ on Maui, check out these 8 Tips before you add a house to your online shopping cart.

1. Have a Clear Vision

Long before you put in an offer on any home, its a good idea to first have a clear vision and goal of what you want and need.

Get out a piece of paper and pen and remember to include all the things that you absolutely must have, things you feel may be nice to have, and also what you don’t really need. Not only this, yet it’s important to have an idea of what areas you ideally want to purchase in.

To help you have a clear vision, check out this ‘Ideal Home Questionnaire’ with online questions to determine your ideal home and lifestyle in Maui.

2. Find the Right Agent With ‘Sight Unseen’ Experience

Take the time to find the right real estate agent for you — ideally one who has experience with selling properties ‘sight unseen.’

Since you won’t be seeing the home in person, it’s important to find an agent you can really trust with experience working in this area and who knows the market and the area you’re buying in.

Especially make sure to check out their client reviews and testimonials, asking about any feedback from other clients they have helped to sell a property ‘sight unseen’. This will give you a great solid foundation to know if they are credible and will be helpful and reliable during the transaction process.

3. Watch A Video Tour

While you can’t physically visit the home in person, most homes on the market today include all of the specifications in detail in the listing, as well as photographs and oftentimes, a video tour.

A narrated video tour is especially crucial for people looking to buy a house ‘sight unseen’ as you’ll get a much more intimate glimpse at what you’re buying and the closest feeling to being able to actually walk through the property yourself.

If the listing doesn’t come with a video tour — make sure to ask your Agent for one.

4. Study the Layout of the Home

It can be challenging to understand the layout of a house just by looking at listing photos, so get a better sense of the flow of the house by drawing a floor plan and studying the video tour.

If possible, get the measurements of the rooms (or ask your Agent for these) to determine which furniture will fit and what should be left behind before moving.

It’s important to know the dimensions of the home you’re buying so your aware ahead of time with no surprises, as sometimes rooms and spaces can appear differently — larger or smaller — in online photographs and video tours than they do in person.

5. Get a Sense of Your Surroundings

Often times listing photos and the video tours don’t capture what you’ll see through the windows or your surrounding areas. For example — your kitchen room windows may look out onto the neighbor’s wood fence.

Ask your Agent to take photographs looking through the windows of the house and if possible, record a short video up and down the street to help get a sense of your nearby surroundings and neighborhood.

Also, ask your Agent about the surroundings and neighborhood – is it noisy with lots of passing traffic or calm and quiet? You can also use Google Earth to scan the home and its surroundings from above — getting a full birds-eye perspective of your new neighborhood.

6. See Details on a Live Video Call

If you like what you see so far, ask your Agent to conduct a Face-Time, Zoom, or Facebook Messenger video call for you to see the house or condominium in live real-time.

During the video call, you can look and point out all of the details and ask your agent any questions you may have about the property, so you have everything covered before you buy.

7. Get an Extra Set of Eyes

A good Home Inspector will help locate any problems about the new house you’re looking at purchasing before you sign, however, they can also be great at providing an additional service — being your ‘extra eyes and senses’ on the ground.

While typically a Home Inspector is hired after you’ve made an offer, for buyers who can’t physically visit the property in person, you could also hire them early on to help you decide if you’d even like to make an offer — and then hire them again for a full in-person inspection later on.

Since their trained eyes can uncover what home sellers may be trying to hide – you can ask them to double-check over the home’s online profile, photos and video — just as a “precautionary extra-measure”.

You can also ask them to pick up on other issues that your senses can’t detect — issues such as lingering odors from basements, carpets or pets, which an owner may be inured to.

8. Ask for a Walk-Through Contingency

At the end of the day, you’re going to have to see the house eventually — so the best way to safeguard your big investment is to negotiate a walk-through contingency in your contract. This contingency will allow you to actually walk through and see the property, before signing the final papers at closing.

Just bear in mind that, just like with all contingencies, the seller’s don’t necessarily have to agree with them. However, if you’re still unsure and on the fence, the best thing to do is ask!

Looking to Buy a House “Sight Unseen” on Maui?

Dave Futch is a local Real Estate Agent for Hawai’i Life, who has over 30 years’ experience in the real estate industry on Maui, as well as experience with buying and selling properties ‘sight unseen.’ Get in Touch with Dave Futch at (808) 280-9600 or via email at davefutch@hawaiilife.com, he’d love to hear from you!

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