BUYING A HOME SITE UNSEEN
Buying a home without seeing the actual property comes with a risk and is not ideal, let alone a huge commitment. Nevertheless, it is a choice that some people end up making because of their circumstances. Some expats, for example, buy a home site unseen when they are still living overseas so that they would secure a home to move into and a school to enroll their children on time, and start the process of the transition.
It was mere a year ago or so when my husband and I made a final decision to buy our current home. We literally put on an offer during our vacation in Sri Lanka. It was a surreal experience and felt just like an online shopping. The difference was that there was no return policy. It was our first time to be a home buyer. Needless to say my husband and I were nervous. We unfortunately couldn’t fully indulge in our last family vacation for a while. In retrospect, though, it was a good decision, something that had to be done at the time and worthwhile to have peace of mind later.
WHY WE BOUGHT HOME SITE UNSEEN
We found out in November 2015 when we were still in Mumbai, India for my husband’s job that we would be returning to the U.S. in the summer 2016. It was about 7, 8 months before our actual move. As soon as we learned that, my husband and I started discussing whether we should buy or rent. We agreed that we should buy this time because it made more sense for our stage of life instead of renting.
Some expats wait till they move to their destination to look for a property. We could have waited till July of 2016 to buy a house, too. However, I knew that we were moving back to a very competitive area for house hunting and the summer is the busiest time of year for selling, buying and renting. I could not bear the pressure that we would go through, had we waited till July to look for a place to buy. I also wanted to lift one weight off our shoulders from the big international move. Finding our future home in advance meant that we could check one big item off our long list.
So it began.
We used several websites to look for homes for sale. Soon my husband and I came to learn that zillow.com was the most comprehensive source for our needs. (*This is not sponsored and entirely voluntary.) Below is the categories that we focused on when we searched homes.
It was our top priority to find a home in a convenient location for my husband to commute to work using public transportation since we wanted to own one car. We also had in mind that we might keep the home and rent when we move overseas again in the future. Thus, owning a home in a convenient location will hopefully help.
All of our children will go to school. Thus, we wanted to make sure that our children will go to good reputable schools where they can thrive.
SIZE – 3 BEDROOMS
We have 3 children and they only grow bigger. We needed enough space for them to grow into and all of us to live comfortably so that we would not be on top of each other.
CONDITION OF HOME
We wanted a ready-to-move-in home. Since we knew that we would only live in a new home for 2 to 3 years, it wasn’t our interest to spend much of our time for a fixer upper. More importantly homes in our area are extremely expensive and we knew that we had to stretch far to be able to even afford a home that meets our requirements and would not be able to allocate money for renovation.
THINGS THAT HELPED IN SEARCHING
My husband spotted our current home on Zillow. The previous owner had the place professionally photographed which really helped us get a good idea on how it looked through the virtual medium. I had a good friend visit the site when we were considering and told me that it looked just like in the photos. (The interior actually appeared a bit better and much bigger in the photos because they were photoshopped, but that made it look more appealing.)
I don’t know what we would do without Google map. We were able to check out the neighborhoods, schools, shops, playgrounds, roads, and highways through the map. Even if you don’t go there in person, you can get a good virtual tour through amazing Google map.
GOOGLING THE ADDRESS
You will be surprised how much information you can find by googling addresses.
We contacted a realtor whom our friend used in the past. He went to the home and took a video tour of the home and sent it to us. It helped us see some of the things that we dismissed in the professionally taken photographs.
Our good friends lived not too far from our current home. She happens to be someone who has a keen eye on homes and details. We asked her to go look at the property and give us critical and honest opinions about it. It really helped me get a perspective from her.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
CHOOSING AN AGENT
You might want to avoid using the agent that the seller is using because the agent would have a conflict of interest. As written in “In A Blind Date with My New House: Buying Homes Site Unseen”, “the seller’s agent, by nature, has the seller’s best interests in mind, not yours.”
WHAT TO CHECK
We did not get to survey the property with our own eyes. Based on our experiences, here are the things that I recommend you have someone check out if you are in the same situation as we were.
I say this because our garbage disposal was not working when we moved in. We didn’t think to ask if it was working through our realtor. It did not get noticed when we had an inspection done and the previous owner didn’t tell us.
Luckily our realtor found out that one of the toilets was broken. He asked the previous owner to fix the toilet and it was done.
Our heating system does not heat up our lower level, but in certain rooms on the upper level gets too warm. We had no idea about it until we started using the heater. We will have to eventually hire an AC professional to have the whole unit checked.
We had a stain on one of the ceilings. The contractor we hired to have our place painted over it for some reason. I am not sure what prompted him to do that. Anyways, it turned out it was nothing serious. It is good to look up when you visit a home to look for any signs of water damage.
PET OR NO PET
This would make a difference on regular wear and tear and also smell. If you will be looking into buying a home site unseen, you might want to check on this as you won’t be able to detect smell unless you visit.
When my friend came to look at our home, she saw many children getting off the bus around the corner from us. It felt good to know that there were many families with children in the neighborhood.
THE DIRECTION YOUR HOME FACES
It did not even dawn on me to question which direction our home faced until I actually stepped into our home to notice it was darker than I thought. I came to find out that it was a north-facing home which is not energy-efficient. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but for some people, this could matter especially if they have another similar option.
PHOTOS OF OUR HOME
The photos on this post show how our home looked before we moved in. These photos were taken from the same angles of each room we saw on Zillow except the ones posted there had some furniture owned by the previous owner. The dimensions of the rooms in the photos taken by a professional photographer were quite a bit distorted and photoshopped which seems to be the common practice for home selling business. Our home looks quite a bit different now with our furniture and decoration. If you are curious to see the evolution of our home, please visit my Instagram account or Facebook page. I do plan on writing a post about my current home with decoration in the future, but I would like to wait till spring or summer so that I can take photos of my home with my good camera under better natural light.
There is a great article that I enjoyed reading about buying a home site unseen. It is very well written and lists great points on what to look for and keep in mind. I think you will benefit from reading this article if you are looking into buying a home site unseen.
In A Blind Date with My New House: Buying Homes Site Unseen
I could not write as eloquently as Michele, the author of the article above. However, I tried my best to tell you our experience so that you will get some ideas. I hope my post will be helpful for some and have entertained you all!