In 2017, 35 percent of people who bought homes did so sight unseen. In 2018, I was one of them. In the midst of purging, packing, and organizing all our things, my husband and I put in an offer on a house in Indianapolis, Indiana—1,500 miles away from our apartment in Denver. We'd been house hunting for a few weeks and always said we'd wait until we moved to put in an offer. So what changed?
Why We Bought the House
My husband Sam and I had been searching for a house for a few weeks, casually looking at online listings. Our realtor had set up an automatic email notification so we'd be notified any time a house within our price range and desired neighborhood came on the market. We'd already looked at dozens of houses, so when the special one we thought was our dream house appeared on the market, we knew why this one was special—and what made it completely different than what else was available.
So we talked to our realtor, and since he knew exactly the kind of house we wanted, he was honest that though it would be a risk, it would probably be awhile before a similar home came on the market. Indianapolis is currently in a seller's market, so when you're looking to buy, there's a lot of competition: We had to pull the trigger before we were 100 percent sure. And there was no chance of waiting: Our home had a quick deadline for offers so we couldn't afford to wait until we were back in town. It was either make an offer or pass all together.
We knew the stakes—if we ended up deciding it wasn't for us, we would lose our earnest money, or the deposit made when your offer is accepted (usually 1 percent of the home's original sale price). In our case, it was $1,600. The only way we could back out was if the home inspection revealed some serious damage—and no, not even termite infestations would give us that money back. So ultimately, knowing what we were up against, we decided to make an offer.
How it Worked Out
It was accepted! Sam and I were so excited to visit our house once we finally got to Indiana. The day after we moved, we drove the 30 minutes to our new potential home, eager to see if we'd made the right decision.
As soon as we stepped inside the house, I breathed a sigh of relief. Sure, the rooms looked smaller than they did in photos, but overall the house resembled what we fell in love with. The clawfoot tub in the master bathroom, the built-in buffet in the dining room, and the backyard were all just as we imagined.
A few days after our first look, the inspector came in. His report revealed some problems with the house, but we negotiated a cash agreement with the sellers to pay for repairs. After that, the appraisal came back $5,000 less than our offer, but the sellers agreed to lower the price. We closed on June 29, exactly a month after we first saw it.
After all of this, I think if you find a house you love and are familiar with the market, buying a house without visiting it isn't that crazy—you just have to have a little faith (and the help of a few experts).