It’s PCS (Permanent Change of Station) Season and every year about 1/5th of the active-duty military relocates from one base to another from mid-March through late July. Its also the same season the majority of home buyers move from one place to another – taking advantage of the Summer months to reduce disruption on school-age children. The pressure to find a home while the clock is ticking down to the first day of a new job or to register kids for school is stressful, made worse by the realities of the current low-inventory market. The less time available to look for a home, the more compromises a home-buyer may make because of the limited number homes on the market during your search period. Too many compromises can lead to buyer’s remorse – a feeling of deep dissatisfaction with your purchase some days or weeks after closing.
Buying remotely can be a good way to lengthen the buyer process over time, providing an opportunity to see more homes and thus have more options – ultimately reducing the likelihood of buyer’s remorse. When done right buying remotely can relieve buyer stress. A buyer who purchases remotely may be able to do a door-to-door move. Here are five important tips to successfully purchase a home remotely:
- Work with a Realtor you Trust. The number of people who hire a realtor without any sort of vetting or interview process is substantial. A home is a huge, and deeply personal purchase. Interview several realtors. Ask questions about their background and their level of commitment to the industry. Is real estate their full-time profession? Have they done remote purchases before? Do they have client reviews or testimonials that they can share? Pay attention to their demeanor during their video showings. Are their descriptions of the house overly flattering? Are they being thorough and pointing out both the positive and negative aspects of the home – or are they avoiding or glossing over potential problems? Do they seem eager to have you write an offer quickly without looking at multiple properties? A buyer of residential real estate should never feel a property is being ‘sold’ to them. A good buyer’s agent is more of a matchmaker than a salesperson. They should help you determine how compatible you, your family, and your lifestyle is with the home. Matchmaker. Not a salesperson.
- Do Market Research. This is critically important to a successful home purchase. Things like school ratings, commute times, and crime statistics are all available on-line. We insist upon at least one zoom conference with our remote buyer clients during which we spend time on map studies, market statistics and lifestyle decisions. More than any other decision – choosing a home dictates your lifestyle. Do you want your kids to walk or take the bus to school – or will you be taking them every day? Do you want a community pool to cool off in the hot summer? How much time are you willing to dedicate to your daily commute? How far will you drive to get groceries? Do you want to be close to your favorite church, gym, golf course - etc.? Your home purchase dictates your lifestyle in more ways than budget.
- DO NOT do live video tours. At least not the first tour. Seem odd? Follow this logic. Buying a home from only live video tours can be a huge mistake. Live tours leave no record of what was or wasn’t shown during the tour. There is no way for you to go back and refresh your memories of details that you may have overlooked. They are also difficult to coordinate - requiring homebuyers, the realtor, and the home being shown to be available at the same time often across multiple time zones. TIES Team has a mature, effective, and efficient method for executing remote video tours. We communicate with our clients via an encrypted private chat on WhatsApp. We’ve found WhatsApp video provides the best resolution. We have a systematic methodology to record homes in a sequence that gives a great sense of floor plan, finishes, special features and potential red flags in a home. Our clients can give us a list of the homes they want to see, and we’ll schedule the tours in a sequence and on a time schedule that allows us to deliver several home tours at one time in the chat. The buyers can watch the videos on their own time schedule, and determine which homes they are most interested in. A second tour for a home that ‘makes the list’ can be coordinated and done using live or recorded video to answer specific buyer questions.
- Understand the buying process - Especially the contract and associated timelines. Your realtor should never send you a document to sign without: A. giving you the opportunity to read a .pdf version of it, and B. allowing you the opportunity to ask questions. Moreover – your realtor should spend the time required to ensure you understand the contract. Again, we find video-chat to be an effective method by which we cover the contract for our remote buyers. We can explain certain paragraphs clearly when we share our screen and discuss the contract. The contract timeline is critical to ensuring the buyer maintains leverage and has sufficient time to make critical decisions about the purchasing decision. Your realtor should explain them to you.
- Finally – don’t purchase remotely. Wait – what? Not kidding - if you can avoid it you should always try to see the home in person. Sometimes a remote purchase is the only choice that gives buyers the most opportunity to find the home they want, but it does carry some risks. The middle ground, which many of our buyers take, is to make a trip to town to look at homes without any expectation that they are going to leave under contract. Even having one spouse make the trip is better than none. This provides the opportunity to see if the realtor is the same in person as over the phone – and to physically see neighborhoods and surrounding areas while touring real estate. Then you can continue your home search remotely using the methodology described in earlier paragraphs. Another option – buy a flex ticket and fly to town once a home is under contract. You can meet with your inspector and see the home first-hand while you still have the flexibility to withdraw from the contract and receive your earnest money. Either of these options are a good hedge against the risks of a fully remote purchase. The best hedge, however, is TRUST. Use a real estate agent you trust. A matchmaker not a salesperson.
We’ve helped dozens of satisfied homeowners purchase remotely: facilitating a convenient door-to-door move, reducing the time pressure and stress of finding a home while simultaneously starting a new life in a new location.
If purchasing a home remotely is something you cannot avoid, I’m confident that our method and expertise is exactly what you need. For more information on this process, or any questions about buying and selling real estate in San Antonio and the surrounding areas – call me at (210) 667-7110 or email [email protected]. Happy House Hunting!