Are eager out-of-state buyers entrusting you with their relocations?
Are professional obligations keeping your out-of-town clients from touring the property?
Do your tech-savvy prospects just prefer doing business online now?
Buying homes sight-unseen is becoming more popular, especially among folks from around the country flocking to the Lone Star State. Amy Smythe Harris would know. The ASH Realty Group broker and real estate educator has been helping clients buy Houston-area homes sight-unseen for more than 13 years. “Because I’ve been doing it for so long, I think my mindset hasn’t changed that much. I think with the arrival of COVID-19, there are more and more consumers who are fine buying sight-unseen.”
Here’s her advice for how to help these clients get to closing:
Social Media Gets Them in the Door
While most of her clients who buy homes sight-unseen are referrals, Smythe Harris just recently connected with a few new prospects off her online presence alone. Prospects are visiting your social media accounts and website before they ever reach out to you.
Listing agents will reach more remote buyer prospects by promoting active and coming-soon properties on their channels. Be sure to follow all MLS and advertising rules regarding coming-soon listings, and secure proper copyright permissions before uploading any media to the MLS or online. Make sure your photos and videos look their best. Smythe Harris recommends photo editing services such as boxbrownie.com.
Meet Them Where They Are
Sometimes, Smythe Harris uses Facebook Live to livestream video. Other times, she will post a private video to YouTube. She also uses Zoom. Be able to use several methods and platforms to connect with clients. You may lose clients if you don’t use the platform they prefer. Be sure to get the written permission of the sellers or listing agents before videoing or livestreaming their property because there could be privacy issues involved with recording another person’s home.
Videos Are a Must
Whether recorded or livestreamed, videos are essential these days to help remote clients. As a buyer’s representative, you need to get yourself and the property on camera before your buyers consider making an offer. Listing agents need to offer video walkthroughs; clients near and far are relying on this footage to review the property. Smythe Harris has also recorded videos of driving to the property to give buyers a feel for the neighborhood.
Do Your Homework
It’s likely your sight-unseen clients will already have done lots of research online. Smythe Harris gives clients 27 documents in addition to the buyer offer package. “It’s all of the analytics I can find: the RPR, days on market, the mortgage loan inspection, the trends analysis I run. They see all of that,” she says.
A few things she doesn’t provide are data on crime, nearby sex offenders, and whether someone died on the property. Smythe Harris points them to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state’s sex offender registry, and diedinhouse.com.
Ask About Clients’ Top Concerns
In-person and remote buyers alike will want to know about the major homeowner topics, such as the quality of local schools. Remote buyers may have other, less obvious concerns. “I have a lot of people who don’t like it if the streets are narrow. I tell them to look on Google Street View before we look at a property.”
Find Compatible Vendors
Years ago, Smythe Harris would attend closings via Skype. “If a title company wouldn’t allow me to Skype in, then I would request a different title company,” she says.
Trust and Rapport Are Everything
Spending six figures or more on a property without ever setting foot in it takes trust. The relationship you build with your sight-unseen buyers is what makes these sales possible. It’s all about hearing your voice, responsive communication, and accountability, she says.
These Forms Can Help You
Buyers who choose to make offers without having physically visited the property may be more likely to find surprises when they finally visit for the first time. The following forms note the importance of seeing a property first-hand at certain points and document whether a buyer chose to proceed with a transaction without ever visiting the property in person.
General Information and Notice to Buyers and Sellers (TXR 1506) provides helpful information on a number of topics, including a paragraph titled Inspections, Repairs, and Walk-Through. This paragraph notes that buyers should not only have the property inspected by a professional but should accompany the inspector during the inspection. It also states that buyers should walk through the property prior to closing to ensure that repairs and other contractual provisions have been met.
Buyer’s Walk-Through and Acceptance (TXR 1925) has a section to indicate if the buyer has walked through the property or has chosen not to. The form also states that the buyer accepts the property in its current condition. By requesting that the buyer signs this form with the appropriate box checked, you get clear written documentation that the buyer chose to proceed with the transaction despite not having visited the property.