woman buying house online with houseplants in kitchen area

How To Buy A House Completely Online

Miranda Crace7-Minute Read
April 22, 2021

When it comes to online purchasing, the options are endless. You can buy virtually anything online. Nowadays, you can even buy a house online. That’s right: The entire process of purchasing a new home can be done completely online, from finding a mortgage lender to completing the closing process.

To help anyone who may be interested in buying a house online, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to help you along the way.

Can I Buy A House Online?

Yes, you can absolutely buy a house online! In fact, doing so is easier now than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused businesses to become more flexible in their operations in order to continue servicing their customers. Because of this, real estate agents and mortgage lenders alike have started offering online services to help prospective buyers find their new home.

Is It Worth It To Buy A House Online?

Conducting any kind of business online has its ups and downs – and buying a home is no exception. For many individuals in a situation where they are unable to travel to see their new neighborhood, buying a home online might be their only option. For others, it may be that the virtual process is simply more convenient. No matter your reason for buying a house online, it’s important to know what the good and bad of it all is.

The Upside

One of the biggest advantages to buying a house online is the convenience that it offers. Because every single step of the process now has a virtual option, buyers don’t have to leave the comfort of their current homes to begin or even end their search. This is especially useful for anyone who is unable to travel to the location of their prospective home.

Additionally, real estate technology is more widely available today than ever before to help home buyers in their search. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation of these tools has accelerated in order to continue servicing customers during periods of isolation. While much of this technology was already in existence, the adaptation and creativity had not fully been put into place until 2020. By putting reliable real estate technology into place, buyers have greatly benefited from using these tools to their advantage.

The Downside

Home buying online can also have its downfalls. The biggest disadvantage of buying online is the inability to see a property in person. Although virtual home tours through technology such as augmented reality have paved the way for advanced home showings, it can be hard to fully visualize the space when you aren’t there in person. On a proper walkthrough, home buyers want to get a full view of the house – including what works and what might need to be repaired or updated. Unfortunately, this can be difficult when buying online.

The most important thing you can do when buying online is to find the right support system. Whether you’re buying the house alone or with another individual, the process can be overwhelming especially when navigating it online. Lean on those around you for support and guidance. It’s also important to hire a real estate agent, lender and attorney that you can trust. Having this team of professionals on your side will make the process go much smoother.

The Online Buying Process, Step By Step

When it comes to buying a house online, the process might look a little different from traditional home buying, but overall the core steps and their importance remain the same.

Let’s break down those steps you’ll need to take in order to buy the home of your dreams online.

1. Finding A Mortgage Lender

When it comes to finding a mortgage lender, you’ll want to find one that has a reputation for providing their customers with a great online experience. Thankfully, many have made their processes more adaptable to the needs of online clients. Once you have chosen a lender that is able to conduct business with you virtually, it’s time to get started on your mortgage preapproval. This preapproval process is used to help you identify how much home you can afford and proves that your intentions to buy are serious. Having this completed before searching for a home can give you an edge above the competition by making a faster offer than those who have not already been preapproved.

2. Finding A Real Estate Agent

Finding a real estate agent who can help you through the process virtually is just the first step you’ll need to take. Above all else, you’ll need to find one you can trust and who has a good reputation. Completing your home search virtually requires more dependency on a real estate agent than the traditional process. You’ll be trusting them to choose a home that fits your needs without having the ability to see the home yourself beforehand. Before selecting your real estate agent, ask them questions regarding their experience with remote purchases to understand how comfortable you’d be working with them in this process. They can also be a great resource for inside knowledge of the area you’re looking to move to.

3. Searching For Your New Home

Thanks to the services of many real estate database websites, finding your new home is as easy as typing in a ZIP code and applying a few search filters. Each online listing should feature photos and a full description of the property including square footage, property, age, number of rooms and bathrooms and other important features to note. Your real estate agent can also send you their recommendations for homes based on the must-have new home qualities you have indicated to them.

Once you’ve identified a few that you’re interested in, your real estate agent will walk you through the home via a virtual tour or video call. It’s critical that you ask as many questions as possible during this stage. If you’re unsure about the property due to poor video quality or a lack of questions being answered, don’t be afraid to ask for a second virtual tour. Buying a home online is a big deal, and you want to be sure that you’re going to be satisfied with the house you choose.

4. Making An Offer

Once you’ve selected the home that you want to make an offer on, it’s time to work with your agent. They will be the best expert on what the housing market in that particular area is like at the moment. Knowing this information will help you make an informed decision regarding how much you should offer.

Thankfully, this step of the process is easy to complete online as most of this process has already been transitioned online over the past few years. Your real estate agent will be able to send your offer letter and any contingencies via email to the listing agent. They will then let you know if your offer has been accepted, counter-offered or rejected.

5. Preparing For Closing

Once your offer is accepted, it’s time to move into the closing process. There are a few steps that you need to have completed before closing on your new home. This includes getting an appraisal and an inspection, and the underwriting process.

Appraisal

The appraisal is often conducted by a third party, and the buyer is not typically present for this. When buying online, this can play to your advantage, as you won't have to worry about being there. Once the appraisal is completed, your lender will notify you and send you their report electronically for your review.

Inspection

Having an inspection done virtually might be slightly different from what you’re used to with a traditional home sale. Typically, the inspector would walk you through their findings as they are identified to give you a clear profile on the house you’re buying. However, this isn’t always possible with an online purchase. You may want to ask your agent if they would be able to be at the house during the time of the inspection to take notes, photos or videos of the call. Afterwards, be sure to have the inspector provide you with a detailed report via email. It’s critical that you analyze this carefully, as you never fully know what you’re buying when going through the process online.

Underwriting

This step will be handled by your mortgage lender. They will assess all of your financial records and finalize all of the paperwork you’ll need to complete for closing. This part of the process is easy for you as the online home buyer, as it will all be taken care of for you. Be sure to stay on top of your emails or messages in an online portal to verify that everything is up to date and processed as needed.

6. Closing On The House

The last and most exciting step of the process is the closing day. This is the day when you will sign all of the necessary paperwork and hand over your down payment and closing costs. After this, you’ll be able to officially call the house yours. At your closing, you’ll need to have a notary present. If you are able to hire a remote notary agent, you can arrange with your team to have an in-person notary come to your house to complete the paperwork. After this is completed, it will be mailed to the title company.

The Bottom Line: Buying A House Completely Online Is Possible With The Right Support

Buying a house online presents more unique challenges than the traditional home buying process does – but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With the advancement of technology and increased flexibility of services, this process is more convenient and reliable than ever before. If you were ever interested in but ultimately unsure of buying online, you may find that now’s the time to go for it.

Think of it this way: Buying a house online should be easy as any other online purchase. To help you through this process, it’s important to find an agent you can trust, who knows what they’re doing. With the right support system in place, you’ll soon be closing on the home of your dreams – without ever having left your couch.

Get the right home loan for you.

Miranda Crace

The Rocket Homes blog is here to bring you all you need to know about buying, selling and making the most of your home. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, selling your current home or looking to keep your place in tip-top shape, our writers and freelancers bring their experience and expertise to meet you right where you are.