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Should You Make an Offer on a Home Without Stepping Foot Inside?

Jeff SeehorschSeptember 13, 2018

At first it sounds kinda nuts to make an offer sight unseen. How could you make the biggest purchase of your life without seeing what 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 crazy to do it or not to do it? The truth is, it isn’t crazy either way if you take a few precautions. Let’s look at both sides of the coin.

The Pros

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 where it makes perfect sense:

  • You need to buy a home out of state
  • Your dream home hits the market when you’re out of town
  • The seller sets a tight deadline to receive offers
  • Homes are vanishing in the blink of an eye in a competitive market

Put an offer on a house without a first hand visit

How It Can Help Your Cause

You can beat the crowd. In this relentless seller’s market, offers usually 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 sometimes it’s the only way to 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 probably miss out on many homes that look promising online. When you bypass all the hours of driving and looking, suddenly a lot more options are on the table.

How You Can Feel Confident About Your 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. Agents don’t often double as inspectors, but they know enough to advise you before you make an offer. They can also give you a virtual tour via FaceTime or by capturing video, 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 simply back out based on the findings of an inspector. The second is a walkthrough contingency. This assures that eventually you’ll be able to walk through the home and have the final say before closing.

The Cons

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. These are 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

protect yourself when buying a home sight unseen

How It Can Hurt Your Cause

Many sellers shy away from contingencies. Simply put, 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 them.

You might get “blacklisted.” If you make 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 a bulk of your offers could end up dead in the water.

How You Might Need to Compromise on Your 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.

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 worst option. 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 it is an option.

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    Jeff Seehorsch

    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.