Buying Advice

Buying a Home Sight Unseen…REALLY? Is that a Thing?

If you plan to relocate to Hawaii and want to buy a home sooner rather than later, read on…

Obviously there are many factors that go into buying a home without having ever step foot in it, but believe it or not, there are many buyers doing so these days. While this was happening prior to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way buyers view property and even the way listing agents showcase their properties.

spacious deck at oahu home

For Sellers:

Now more than ever, having a video tour and/or a 3D tour is extremely important and valuable to buyers. For those larger homes or properties with a unique layout, 3D tours are very helpful for remote buyers to get a “lay of the land,” so to speak. Photos can sometimes be deceiving, and there are many times when a buyer will comment that either the home looks better than the photos or worse than the photos, so videos provide a much more realistic depiction of the property. Staging is more important than ever since buyers can better visualize how their furniture would fit in the space.

For Buyers:

Make sure you find an agent who is experienced in working with remote buyers. It is a different perspective when it comes to viewing properties, especially the not-so-good aspects of the home. For example, as a remote buyer, you wouldn’t notice level changes in the home (if the flooring slopes a bit up or down in a room), smells such as mold or pets, and more cosmetic items such as damaged baseboards, scuffed up door frames, water damage on window sills, etc. Listing videos only show the big picture and, of course, the “pretty” parts of the home.

Virtual Tours

When touring virtually, make sure your agent takes their time showing you as much of the home that’s not in the MLS photos/video as possible. Don’t rush through it! Have them look under the sinks with you, inside the showers, inside appliances, at those baseboards, etc.

Here’s the experience of a client who recently bought a home on Oahu sight-unseen:

“Cathy had been instrumental in helping us purchase our home in Kailua, HI. We were unable to get to the island for viewings. At first, we were apprehensive about buying a house without seeing it first. But after working with Cathy for several weeks, we got to know her work, and we felt confident in her knowledge and her experience to proceed… She FaceTime us for walkthroughs and honestly conveyed what she saw and heard during our tours of homes. So many little things we could not perceive through the screens of a cell phone, Cathy thoroughly presented to us. She was our eyes and ears… We have found a dependable realtor for all our future real estate needs, and we highly recommend her to anyone looking for an outstanding Realtor Professional on Oahu.”

moving to hawaii

House Hunting with Remote Buyers

I am comfortable working remotely with a buyer who is familiar enough with Oahu and the neighborhoods that they want to buy in. While Google Earth is a great tool to view the streets and neighborhoods of the homes you’re interested in, nothing beats real-time views. I also do virtual neighborhood drives if the buyer thinks it would be helpful.

On the other hand, if a buyer has never stepped foot on the island or has never been in the areas outside of the typical Waikiki or tourist spots while on vacation, I would suggest waiting to put in an offer until they are physically here.

Take a Trip to Oahu If You Can

If the buyer can pull it off, ideally I recommend they make a house hunting trip about 2 months prior to their move. If they can dedicate at least 2 days to look at different neighborhoods/properties they are interested in, that is enough time for them to be able to submit offers on the homes they like. With a standard 45 day close, it’s perfect timing for them to move right in. If they don’t see the right property during that trip, at least they will have an understanding of the various neighborhoods that match their budget and the layout, materials, construction of the homes they like. That makes the virtual showings after that much more meaningful.

Comments (3) Show CommentsHide Comments (Remember)

Cool. Add your comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private, this form is secure and we never spam you.


March 10, 2021

Great Blog! Thanks for sharing.


March 11, 2021


Thank you, great information. I’m always looking on this website.



March 11, 2021

Super, my pleasure!

More Articles from Hawaii Life