Author Topic: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?  (Read 7966 times)

onemorebike

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Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« on: November 15, 2014, 05:19:30 AM »
My family and I will be moving across the country in the coming months. We'll need to sell our current house and are looking to skip renting in the new city for a number of reasons that aren't central to this question.

The previous two houses I've bought I've known from the online listing that the house was what we wanted before seeing it in person. That said, I did then go with the realtor to look at the place to confirm. I'm starting to shop again, getting daily MLS listings from an identified neighborhood and I have a one week window in January where I'll go there and look at places that are on the market, but who knows if an ideal house will be available at the time?

The question, I guess, is has anyone here bought a primary residence sight unseen? It seems somewhat risky, but I have family there that could do a walk through with a vid camera, google maps to zoom in and check out the neighborhood, walkscore to figure out what is nearby and a realtor that is a long time family friend. I'm not sure I'm ballsy enough to do this, but curious what the experts think.

-onemorebike

p.s. I've heard arelsby discuss doing this for a rental property, but a family home seems so much more personal.

Weedy Acres

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2014, 05:26:32 AM »
I wouldn't do it.  There are things that you can't get from photos (layout, flow, location, smells) that you need to see in person.  And I've seen houses online that seem in mint condition but then walked through them and the floor was sloped or something. 

Pigeon

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2014, 06:44:55 AM »
No way. This is way too major of a purchase, with too much potential for serious problems.

lizzzi

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2014, 06:55:44 AM »
Don't even think about it. No way. Ditto that there is too much that you can't get from photos, or even from trusted friends/family's verbal descriptions. You're going to at least have to stay in a kitchenette motel or something (bunk in with family?) while you look with your boots on the ground. Have the best options lined up for that week in January, and cross your fingers that one of those homes will work for you.

arebelspy

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2014, 08:52:38 AM »
Only if I was comfortable turning it into a rental shortly afterwards if it didn't work out and we moved to a different place (i.e. the numbers worked well for a rental and I was planning on getting rentals in that area anyways).

Otherwise I'm in the camp that you should live in an area for a year or so before you look to purchase property.  Then you'll know you want to stay there, know which neighborhoods are good and bad, know what real estate goes for in the area so you know what is/isn't a good deal, etc.
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escolegrove

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2014, 03:59:29 AM »
Totally bought sight unseen and it worked out well :) We are active duty navy and buy based on what will we be great investments.

deborah

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2014, 04:10:32 AM »
When I was young, my parents moved, and dad wanted to buy a house that mum had never seen. Fortunately he didn't, because she really didn't like it.

When I moved to a different part of the country, I saw 32 houses in one weekend, and bought one of them. I think that if you have done enough work before hand, you can see a lot of houses, and make a reasonable decision. I knew the market by the time I saw all the houses. You have a whole week!

money_bunny

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2014, 02:31:25 PM »
Move and rent first for a year to get to know the neighbourhoods really well.

onemorebike

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2014, 08:43:21 PM »
Theoretical question then: What if an offer was made remotely (having not walked through) and accepted. Then, I flew out to said location and walked through with the inspector. Say floors are crooked, or any other myriad of problems, couldn't I then back out of offer or is that an ethical issue?

I've seen one or two houses thus far that make me feel like making an offer based on a family member walking through and giving thumbs up, then booking a flight and coming out to follow up.

Thoughts?

(also, renting very likely isn't going to happen, so it doesn't stand as an option for the time being)


homehandymum

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2014, 11:44:33 PM »
Sorry, can't address your question about backing out of an accepted offer, as it totally depends what conditions you named in your offer, and your local legislation.

But, we did buy a house unseen as our primary residence when we moved across country nearly 8 years ago.  (This is roughly analogous to moving across-state in the US)

caveats:

1)  I also had family who could do a walk-through, one of whom owns a lot of rental property in the city.  I asked him how much he'd pay for the house, and that was what we offered. 

2)  I had grown up in the city, so already knew which suburbs etc I'd be ok with living in, and which I would not.

3)  It was a pretty standard post-war brick and tile house, so no big surprises with layout etc (although, one of the bedrooms turned out to be an add-on, with no basement or roof access, and near impossible to insulate.  Still not a deal-breaker for us, though).

4)  We're both pretty mustachian and pragmatic, and neither of us had big dreams or non-negotiables about what had to have/not have in the house - big enough bedrooms for the kids to share and our King sized bed to fit, and a non-pokey lounge with good light were about it.  Otherwise, we didn't really care about aesthetics or age or style of house.

5)   We got lucky.  House was built by a builder for himself (so solid as a rock), heaps of built-in storage, the house had had ONE owner its entire life, so no dodgy stuff that nobody knew about, and it hadn't been altered, re-altered, re-altered until who knows what was going on. 

We stayed 7 years and only moved when we discovered we're expecting another baby.  4 kids in 2 1/2 bedrooms just wasn't going to fly for us.

In the last 7 years here, people have gotten a LOT more cautious about buying houses, and it is standard to get a building inspection as part of the sale - so the offer is usually made subject to finance, building inspection, council record inspection, insurance being obtained, AND an electrical inspection. (Huge earthquake in a city here a few years ago has put the frighteners on the insurance companies, and they often have conditions before insuring - like a clean building report and electrical inspection).

If I was offering site unseen now, I'd get all those inspections done by registered professionals, AS WELL as having family walk-through.  And even then, I'd only rely on the family opinion if they have financial skin in the property game at the time in the same city.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2014, 11:50:03 PM by homehandymum »

adamcollin

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2014, 02:41:12 AM »
You can choose a house from the MLS Listing, but inspecting the house is a must before finalizing it.

onemorebike

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2014, 04:58:46 AM »
I've been combing through the MLS and finding a house here or there in the neighborhood we are looking at, but definitely not a ton of them meeting our all of our requirements. I plan to do a week in January to search, no matter what, but I'm contingency planning in case there isn't something that pops up. Or, an ideal house that shows up between then and now via MLS. Definitely hearing mixed reviews here though...

Any input on the legality/ethical implications of putting an offer on a house contingent on inspection and then bailing on an offer if the "slanted floors" aren't fixed? (in this case slanted floors could be substituted for any number of things that end up being things I don't like)

-onemorebike

onemorebike

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2014, 05:00:23 AM »
(Also note that a lot of this fear stems from living in the Denver market where most houses are sold the day after they go on the market - I'm pretty sure this isn't the case in Minneapolis.)

arebelspy

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2014, 07:37:25 AM »
Theoretical question then: What if an offer was made remotely (having not walked through) and accepted. Then, I flew out to said location and walked through with the inspector. Say floors are crooked, or any other myriad of problems, couldn't I then back out of offer or is that an ethical issue?

I've seen one or two houses thus far that make me feel like making an offer based on a family member walking through and giving thumbs up, then booking a flight and coming out to follow up.

Thoughts?

(also, renting very likely isn't going to happen, so it doesn't stand as an option for the time being)

It depends on the contract.  Put inspection contengencies in.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

zoltani

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2014, 12:04:12 PM »
Yes, I always go with inspection contingency, and have backed out in the past during this period with no qualms about it.

mydogismyheart

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2014, 03:06:55 PM »
I'm glad things worked out for you :) but I would never buy a house sight unseen.  As a real estate agent, I have seen so many things go wrong!  Which is why I always pre-view houses as best as I can first before showing.  I have seen homes online that looked stellar but as soon as you pull up you can tell they're not.  There are so many things that may not show up in photos because an agent took photos only highlighting the positives.  I don't know how many times I've gone to see a home wondering why the heck it was still on the market, only to walk in and walk right back out knowing exactly why.... so the thought of buying on sight unseen just scares the crap out of me!

Pangolin

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Re: Buying a Primary Residence Sight Unseen?
« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2014, 01:46:25 PM »
I might be doing this in the near future. It's not ideal, and I am planning a week long trip to view houses as well. However buying sight-unseen is still a possibility. An inspector will be able to identify any problems far better than I could. Layout doesn't matter much to me. I've lived in a variety of places and I know I just need four solid walls and roof.

WRT neighborhood, close friends live within miles of the area we've targeted and they've given us feedback on location.