Is sight unseen the future of selling homes?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most industries have been unable to escape the urgent need to adapt services for an increasingly online world, and real estate, which has traditionally conducted business in-person and on-site, has certainly not been left untouched by this.  

The industry has seen the majority of renting and selling processes either put on hold, moved online or proceed with added safety measures. But despite lockdowns and restrictions, many people still need to sell homes.

The industry has seen an incredible increase of virtual viewings that has led to growth in buying or renting without viewing the property or ‘sight unseen’. 

Reserved Reluctance

Buying or renting ‘sight unseen’ has traditionally been viewed as risky. The industry has been reluctant to shift transactions online because many processes have required in-person interactions to secure a sale or lease. 

Before the internet, Zoom, Facetime, and virtual tours, buying or renting ‘sight unseen’ was handled through photos of the property or having an agent representing the client to view properties on their behalf. 

Technology has decreased buyers’ hesitancy, reflected by millennials who grew up with the internet. According to research conducted by real estate brokerage Redfin, millennial homebuyers are more likely to buy a home sight-unseen as compared to older buyers. 

Risks + Benefits

One of the main risks for buying a property without seeing it is finding issues that are not obvious in photos or virtual tours - such as pests, traffic noises or infrastructure problems - which could result in agency lawsuits post-purchase.

Virtual tours have proven to drive higher offers and help sell homes faster. They give agents the opportunity to reach a wider audience by making virtual open houses available 24 hours a day to prospects living anywhere in the world. People can house hunt safely within the comfort of their own homes, limiting contact and minimizing risk in this current environment.

In addition, more prospects are able to walk through the home to see if it’s the right fit before requesting an in-person viewing, which frees up the agent to only show it to serious buyers. The seller appreciates less traffic in their home, especially now with social distancing restrictions. And, there is also a great environmental benefit due to the significant reduction in miles traveled to and from the property by both the agent and prospects, decreasing the amount of fuel burned and carbon emissions released. Watch Matterport’s latest webinar, “House Hunting Online: Can you sell a Property Sight Unseen?” to find out more. Hear from four global real estate professionals about their experiences of selling and renting sight unseen.

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