Home » MBJ FEATURE » FOCUS ON REAL ESTATE — Would you buy a home sight unseen? It’s becoming more popular in Mississippi

FOCUS ON REAL ESTATE — Would you buy a home sight unseen? It’s becoming more popular in Mississippi

By LYNN LOFTON 

There are all sorts of technology that make it easier to buy homes these days. In some cases homebuyers use technology to buy homes sight unseen. According to Business Wire, one in five buyers has made an offer on a home without having visited it in person. How prevalent is that practice in Mississippi?

It hasn’t happened on a large scale but it’s happening more and more, says Andrea Detrick, an Oxford Realtor serving as president of the Mississippi Association of Realtors.

“We’ve been doing it for a while and it’s catching on,” she said. “I’m working with some people in California who want a country home here. By using Facetime, they don’t have to fly back and forth. It lets me show the panoramic view in real time; it can show opening the refrigerator door and driving down the street.”

It’s not just young couples using this technology; people of all ages are using it. However, there are some negatives of buying sight unseen. “You can’t see what’s around the house or the landscaping,” Detrick said. “You also can’t use the sense of smell online.”

Detrick, who is with The Real Estate Firm in Oxford, points out that Mississippi realtors, like those everywhere, have to keep up with technology advances or get left behind.

Carol Stewart, broker associate with Crye-Leike Realtors in Madison and president of the Central Chapter of MAR, says the trend of buying homes without seeing them in person has not really reached Mississippi.

“As a top producer each year in my office and in polling other top producers this is rare if at all,” she said. “I currently have one client out of state who has family here and is desperate to buy a home. Our inventory is low and this client knows where he wants to be and the price range.

“As new listings slowly come on the market, their family members and I do a tour via FaceTime with him and his wife. They are 85! If we find the right one, he will buy it ‘site unseen’ but again, his family members will have been through the home. He did spend several days here touring homes and his family members, and I have an accurate view of what he desires and what features are the most important.”

Cynthia Joachim with Coldwell Banker Alfonso Realty in Gulfport says buying homes without actually seeing them is a fascinating phenomenon but the speed of these transactions can be costly and risky to buyers.

“With the great improvement in many real estate markets nationwide, multiple offers are common and they increase bidding wars,” she said. “Buyers who can move quickly, close quickly and forgo physical visits and personal inspections will prevail over buyers who want to visit and make their own evaluations.”

She thinks many of these buyers are younger and are willing to accept the risk of buying something they have not seen and examined.

“However, these buyers have lived in a world where buying digitally is their frame of reference and satisfies their desire for speed in decision making, flexibility, anonymity and mobility of areas while they job hunt and make decisions about relocating.”

Regardless of age, Joachim believes the number of buyers who have purchased sight unseen is still much smaller than those buying the traditional way. “For most Americans, the purchase of a home is the largest single investment they will make and at retirement is the most valuable asset they own,” she said. “So for most of us, no matter how high tech the search and the decision making process, we want to step inside and see for ourselves.”

Regarding other technology, Stewart says mobile apps are huge and demand is increasing.

“Agents and sites are adapting and getting buyers what they desire, which is to have rich and detailed content at their fingertips,” she said. “The National Association of Realtors’ studies state that 94 percent of all buyers are searching for homes online. My personal experience would be 99 percent.”

About Lynn Lofton

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