Home Buying

Buying a home – online!

Dr. appointments are held via telemedicine & Zoom calls. My cousin just ordered a CAR online and had it delivered to her house. You may now be buying your groceries online for delivery or curbside pick-up. We also buy just about everything from Amazon, pajamas for my kid, water filters for my fridge, I’ve even ordered a new antennae for my old VW Beetle from Amazon! We read a lot in our family and the libraries are mostly closed with some drive up options, but now we do kindle and download (I know that’s old hat, but it’s a new way for us).

Would you ever consider buying a home online?

This topic likely could have been one of the first that I put on my blog, but sometimes you do something so much that you forget that it’s unusual! Covid is bringing a lot of attention to it right now – a friend sent me a copy of this article in the Wall Street Journal about the fact that buying without seeing a home in person has gone from 3.5% of agents saying that they have done a contract this way to a whopping 31% in April of this year! All I could do was nod my way through it.

Buyers do this when they are in the military, moving from overseas, or simply relocating from another state. Obviously at any point a visit is welcome, but if it’s not possible then there are ways to make it work.

I know people start shopping for homes that way – they like to visit the big online portals for listings so that they can see what homes are for sale, see pictures, get information on taxes and prices etc.

I have a good understanding of the difficulty of relocation because of my personal history of moving from state to state for fun or job relocation and also knowing how hard that was without being able to piece together what life looked like – most especially when I moved to Minneapolis from Chicago, which had much higher stakes for us, we had a kid changing schools, no family here, homes to sell and buy…

I started my YouTube channel and have focused a lot on showcasing neighborhoods and homes of every price and type, as well as trying to show a bit about what life is like here in Minnesota.

I thought I would help people like me.

And I *AM*!!

I regularly get calls or emails from people that are moving to Minneapolis for work, school, medical care or just because they want to, and they are coming from every part of the United States and across the world. They may be thinking of renting at first or may also be ready to buy a home here.

So, how do you buy a home from a long way away? Well, it’s definitely not the same as when you’re here in person, and the most important thing is to find an agent that you can trust. Agents always act as your partner in the purchase of a home, but when you are buying from a distance this is far more important. Your agent will be able to give you the information that you need before making a decision. This can be data on sales, rising and taxes, information about what schools are there, to just being able to provide you with video and commentary on what is in the area.

A very important aspect is that you are very open and clear with your agent as to what you prefer and what things are important to you in a home. I’ve had clients that were very specific about wanting 2 acres of property in the south suburbs, to those that prefer a high rise in the heart of downtown and everything in between. For out of town clients I preview all homes for them and take a video tour. In some cases, I’ll look at anything available in their price range that meets their criteria – listings sometimes aren’t enough to decide. More than once I have bought a home that I didn’t even think I wanted to see based on the photos. If nothing else, this gives a very clear picture of the competition and a better idea of what to offer once you’ve narrowed down your choices.

You’ll still need to do all the basic things like get pre-approved for a mortgage (easily accomplished ONLINE!) so you know how much you can afford to buy. But after your preferences and budget are clear I generally try to do the following:

  1. Set up a search on the MLS for you. People generally seem to love Zillow, but I believe that is probably because it’s what is available and people are used to it. It is also notoriously inaccurate. The best thing to do is to have an agent set up a search that meets YOUR criteria. This can be very specific – certain streets, specific layouts (ranch, 2 story, town house…), school districts. This is tailored specifically to YOU.
  2. When you have an idea about neighborhood, I will film a neighborhood tour – this gives you a good sense of what the neighborhood looks like, what the streets look like, what businesses are there, is it very residential or mixed with industrial? Do you want to be able to walk or bike ride? What about public transportation and schools? Any funky smells? I can show these to you and you’ll have a private link on YouTube to look from afar.
  3. When you find the neighborhood that you like and narrow down the homes, we can take this a step further. Agents always present their listings to the best advantage in pictures, but does this always match reality? No. So again – a video tour of the home, inside and out so that ALL aspects of the home and its situation are available for your evaluation – closets, basements, the street, the back yard. This can be on a video link or through Facetime so you can be “present” on the tour.
  4. If the home is acceptable and you decide to move forward video can continue to do its job. The inspector may take video or your agent can attend in your place and video the inspection. This is helpful because you can pause at any time and rewatch as you like – it gives you some time to process what you’re seeing and hearing in the video. Sometimes inspections can feel overwhelming if it’s a first time buyer, but this actually gives you a way to slow it down.
  5. We already do so much of our business on line – we sign contracts and loan docs, transfer money, search for homes, communicate often and easily via text or msg, this is just the last piece. You can likely close remotely assuming that signatures are notarized or witnessed, and you’ll be able to get keys either sent to you or held for pick up when you’re ready.

It’s always best if you can see the home yourself. Then you KNOW. But if you can’t, that doesn’t have to stop you from getting a home for yourself.

You just need to find an agent that is used to working remotely and is willing to put in the time to show you what you need to know to feel comfortable with your decision. I personally find this to be a really satisfying client to serve – it gives me a new perspective on my city and I get to welcome new residents to a place I love.

Are you in this situation? I’d love to help you out. Contact me or leave a comment with questions!