Could you buy a home without viewing it? It may seem far-fetched, since the viewing has always been a traditional part of the home buying process, but for a lot of property investors, it's not a home they're buying, it's a product. Furthermore, sometimes the demand for housing can be so high that average home buyers as well as wealthy real-estate investors look to jump-start proceedings.
So if you're looking to buy a property from out-of-town, or you simply don't have the time to attend viewings, don't worry, you're not the first to buy a house without ever having set foot in the front door, and you certainly won't be the last. However, there are some risks involved, and you ought to bear them in mind if you're going to take the leap and buy a house sight unseen.
What are the risks?
You may think that photos of the property are enough to go by, but don't be fooled. However many photos are taken from however many angles, there're things they'll miss, and things they could never have shown you in the first place.
They can't tell you how a house smells, for example, and there might be some unpleasant odours if it hasn't been well maintained. They can't tell you what kind of noise levels you'll be dealing with either. Even if you think that knowing the property's location tells you everything you need to know about it, think again. An article in the Telegraph by Christopher Middleton mentions overseas buyers who purchased flats next to the Thames River, only to find that the view from the flat was of a rubbish dump rather than the river itself.
So don't make the same mistake. It is possible to make a good investment without ever having viewed the property, but you need to take precautions.
So how can you protect yourself?
Well for one thing, there's the trusty contingency clause. According to Investopedia, contingency clauses stipulate conditions that must be met for the property contract to be binding. This could be your most powerful defense against those looking to exploit home buyers who have an inclination towards blind purchases.
You should definitely consider both the walkthrough contingency and the inspection contingency. The former will allow you to conduct a walkthrough of the property before signing any papers. The latter enables you to hire the services of a professional inspector, whose evaluation of the property will help you decide whether or not you put your signature to any agreement. Most estate agents should agree to such contingencies, and if they don't … well, then that tells you all you need to know, doesn't it?
Another thing is to ensure that the estate agent involved in the deal is on your side. You'll want to make sure you have an agent representing your interests, and not those of the seller. This agent will be critical in ensuring the property in question matches your needs, and you'll need to give them a very specific and detailed list of requirements.
What kind of location are you looking for? Must it be near business centres, or are you looking for something more family-orientated? Must it be close to public areas or schools? The information you give your estate agent regarding such matters will be all the more essential in a situation where you are unable to view the property in question.
So if you're looking to buy a house but you don't have the time or energy to attend viewings yourself, seek professional advice. Blind purchases can be risky, and when you're buying a house, you're playing for high-stakes; but online estate agencies such as Tepilo can give you the right advice to ensure no one pulls the wool over your eyes.