With properties selling like hotcakes, one out of three recent homebuyers made an offer on a home without seeing it in person, according to a new survey from high-tech brokerage Redfin. The finding underscores how leveraging new marketing technology and serving up as much property data and imagery as possible can benefit agents while marking a striking generational shift toward pulling the trigger from afar.

  • The proliferation of property information, imagery, neighborhood data and new technology is likely giving buyers more confidence to bid on homes without visiting them in person.

With properties selling like hotcakes, one out of three recent homebuyers made an offer on a home without seeing it in person, according to a new survey from high-tech brokerage Redfin.

The finding underscores how leveraging new marketing technology and serving up as much property data and imagery as possible can benefit agents while marking a striking generational shift toward pulling the trigger from afar.

Thirty-three percent of people who purchased a home in the last year bought the property sight-unseen, up from 19 percent last year and 21 percent two years ago, according to a survey of 11 metro areas commissioned by Redfin.

Millennials were more than three times as likely as their parents to make offers sight-unseen, with 41 percent having said they had done so, compared to 30 percent of Gen Xers and only 12 percent of baby boomers.

The breakneck pace of today’s housing market is likely driving the trend, with homebuyers scrambling to lock down homes before others can pounce.

Homes are going under contract nearly twice as fast as they were only three years ago, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The typical listing went under contract in 27 days in May, down from 32 days the previous year, 40 days in 2015 and 47 days in 2014, the trade group found.

Screenshot from Matterport’s virtual reality video.

“In a market like Denver where the typical home that sold last month went under contract in just six days, buyers can’t wait to go see it until all their scheduling stars align,” said Redfin spokeswoman Rachel Musiker.

The proliferation of property information, imagery, neighborhood data and new technology is also likely giving buyers more confidence to bid on homes without visiting them in person.

For example, 3-D home tours and video-chatting apps allow real estate agents to show buyers every last nook and cranny of a home while they sit on their couches. Redfin said sight-unseen offers played a role in its decision to produce 3-D home tours for all its listings.

And don’t forget about the myriad sources of neighborhood information, such as Walk Score, Yelp and community blogs, Musiker said.

“Having high quality photos and accurate data can help buyers make quick and informed decisions about whether they are really interested in your home and can help save time for everyone by bringing just the most serious homebuyers,” she said.

Agents can also cater to the trend by spending extra time getting to know out-of-town buyers, so they can really understand what their clients want and inspire confidence in their ability to vet properties.

It’s worth noting that most buyers who make offers sight unseen don’t also buy unseen. They usually stop by the home at some point, such as for a property inspection, before closing, Musiker said.

And it’s possible the survey may exaggerate the tendency of the average U.S. homebuyer to make offers sight-unseen, as most metro areas the survey looked at were among the most competitive markets in the country.

They included Denver; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Boston; Washington, D.C.; and San Diego — all markets where the typical home sold in 15 days or less, according to Redfin.

The survey, which was conducted in May by SurveyGizmo on behalf of Redfin, was based on responses from 3,350 U.S. residents in 11 metropolitan areas who bought or sold a home in the past year.

Email Teke Wiggin

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