In this fast paced Charleston area real estate market, many buyers are finding that they can buy a home without first having viewed it. This newest trend in real estate is due to the fact that the market is moving faster, and that purchasers are coming from all over the world. The internet has certainly made the process a little easier, but there are still some pitfalls that one must understand prior to buying sight unseen. Many of my buyers have had a great experience with this type of purchasing, and I anticipate this trend continuing. First, let's look at some concerns.
Of course, there is no substitute for personally viewing a home. There are situations where it is just impossible to make that happen. Many buyers do not have the time or the money to make shopping trips over long distances. In those instances, the internet has made the process much easier. The main pitfall that I see is that pictures do not tell the whole story. A quick trip to any dating website can show you that. Another issue that you must consider is that homes are 5 senses. Often times, location plays a role. If the home looks great in the pictures but is near a papermill, then odor could impact your feelings on the property. These two concerns are the most often cited issues when a purchase such as this occurs.
The keys to making a satisfactory purchase online are: shop online a lot, find an agent that you trust, get great inspectors, and be flexible. I always ask online buyers to shop a lot online, and be very sure of what they want. Shopping online gives the buyer the opportunity to truly see everything that is available, to communicate that to the agent. Always be very specific. If room size, lot size, or proximity to something is important, let them know. The agent that you choose is also very important. It is not enough to be a "top producing" agent. Your sale will require more time, and attention. They will need to point out things that you might have pointed out if you were there. It is also quite important for both of you to have a clear vision of what you are looking for. For example, "spacious kitchen" means different things to different people. The next key is to have great inspectors. Of course, your trusted agent can help with this. You will want inspectors that take pictures with their reports, so you can get a feel for the issues as they come up. It is important that your agent be present during the inspection to ask the questions that you couldn't. Lastly, be flexible. Each person is doing their best to ensure that you have a perfect buying experience, but it is always possible things could be missed... wobbly ceiling fan, missing cover plate, etc. As I have said earlier, it would be best for you to be there in person. If that is not possible, then try not to "sweat the small stuff".
Buying online can be stressful, and it should be. Your home is often the largest purchase that you make. Just remember to clearly communicate what you are looking for in a home, and what items are not required to be perfect. Your agent can help navigate you through issues that sometimes arise, so don't worry. While packing for the move, be sure to leave room for patience and understanding.