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Buying A House Sight Unseen: What To Know Before You Make An Offer Without Seeing The Property

Miranda Crace4 minute read
May 20, 2022

At first it sounds kinda reckless to make an offer sight unseen. How could you make the biggest purchase of your life without seeing the property you’re buying in person?

But maybe you read up on contingency clauses, which allow buyers to back out after a purchase agreement is made. Then you might wonder why someone wouldn’t make an offer sight unseen. So, which is it? Is it careless to make an offer on a house without seeing it, or isn’t it?

The truth is that buying a house sight unseen isn’t careless either way if you take a few precautions. Let’s first define the meaning of “sight unseen” and then look at both sides of the coin.

What Does ‘Sight Unseen’ Mean?

Buying a house “sight unseen” means you purchase a home without taking a physical, in-person tour of the house or even setting foot in or on the property first.

That doesn’t mean you don’t know what the house looks like, at least remotely. You may have searched the property’s listing online to view pictures, study specs, learn details of the house and assess the surrounding neighborhood.

Your REALTOR® may have also given you a virtual tour in real time as they conducted a walkthrough. Or they may have recorded a video tour for you to view later but not too much later, as urgency is usually a contributing factor to buying sight unseen.

The Pros Of Buying A House Sight Unseen

Does a home check all the boxes of what you’re looking for? Is there no way you can tour it before it gets snatched up? Then there’s nothing wrong with putting in an offer before you walk through the front door.

Here are a few common scenarios when making an offer without seeing the property makes perfect sense:

How Making A Sight Unseen Offer Can Help Your Cause

  • You can beat the crowd. In this relentless seller’s market, offers come in fast and furious as soon as a listing appears. Skipping a tour is one way to get your offer in as soon as possible and stay in the running.
  • You aren’t boxed in by your schedule. If you don’t have the time to make it to multiple showings every week, you miss out on many homes that look promising online. When you bypass all the hours of driving and looking, more options are on the table.

How You Can Feel Confident About Your Sight Unseen Offer

  • Send a trusted representative. A sibling or close friend could do in a pinch, but typically this would mean a buyer’s agent. Your agent should know what you’re looking for and how to spot obvious problems like leaks or mold. Real estate agents don’t often double as home inspectors, but they know enough to advise you before you make an offer. They can also give you a virtual tour via FaceTime or a video recording, provided the seller grants permission.
  • Protect yourself with two important contingencies. The first is an inspection contingency, which allows you to ask for more time, negotiate repairs or back out based on the findings of a home inspector. The second is a walk-through contingency. This assures that eventually you’ll be able to walk through the home and have the final say before closing.

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The Cons Of Buying Real Estate Sight Unseen

Now that you know you can hit the eject button, you might be tempted to fire off offers as soon as you see a few photos you like. Not so fast! Going this route can get you in trouble if you take it too far. Below you’ll find some scenarios that could damage your credibility, cause your offers to lose their weight or lock you into a home you’re not happy with.

  • You offer more than you’re willing to pay just to get a home off the market.
  • One day you realize all the offers you make are sight-unseen.
  • You base your offer amount solely on what you see in photos.

How Making A Sight Unseen Offer Can Hurt Your Cause

  • Sellers may shy away from contingencies. A buyer who hasn’t visited a home is more likely to have second thoughts at some point. And if that happens, a seller loses precious days of their house being on the market. That’s why many seller’s agents are on guard for these offers and may advise their clients to skip over contingencies.
  • You might get “blacklisted.” If you create a habit of making offers sight unseen for no apparent reason, experienced seller’s agents are likely to spot the pattern and warn their clients. That means your offers could end up dead in the water.

How You Might Need To Compromise On Your Sight Unseen Offer

  • You might be expected to pay more. While not every seller will avoid contingency-heavy offers, many will expect more money to compensate for the risk. Keep your offer within your budget, but keep in mind that you might need to up the number to get in the conversation.
  • You might need to make some concessions. Some sellers will play ball if you meet them halfway. This might mean scaling back your contingencies, either in terms of how you’re protected or how much time is made available to pull an offer. It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate, but be careful. Make sure you have enough time to examine the findings of an inspector and proceed accordingly.

The Bottom Line: Take Everything Into Account Before You Act

Depending on your situation and market conditions, making an offer on a home sight unseen can range from your best option to your worst decision. So long as you include the proper contingencies and have the representation of a professional buyer’s agent, the important thing to remember is that buying sight unseen is an option.

Are you ready to make an offer on a home sight unseen? If so, we’re here to help you through the home buying process!

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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.