Every military family and many civilians run into this debate every time they move. Do I rent or buy sight unseen so I have a house waiting or do I stay in a hotel or couch surf until I find a place? While some companies cover house hunting leave, many more do not. Even those who offer compensation or financial assistance often can’t help with pregnancy, childcare, work responsibilities, or other issues, leaving many families, including us, wrestling with this debate.
Over the years we have tried both ways — sight unseen and making a house hunting trip. As always, there are pros and cons to both options.
Buying a House Sight Unseen
- Save Money, Time, and Energy – Dahsing to the next location whether just hours away by cars or thousands of miles by airplane is a lot of work. It can be exhausting and very expensive. Sometimes it is not feasible to make the trip, making buying a house sight unseen the best decision.
- Great Technology Lets You Be There – These days with FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, and many more programs it is totally possible to be as close to being there in person as possible. Google Maps allows you to check around the area and do a tour from air too.
- House Upon Arrival – This is perfect because you can do a door-to-door move, meaning your movers deliver straight to your house instead of putting your belongings in storage while you search for a place to live.
- Distressed Properties – Short sales, bankruptcies, and other properties can take awhile. Site unseen provides you more time to wait for these properties.
- Unable to Walk The Neighborhood – While Google Maps and the other technology are great, nothing shows you that your neighbor will park his car in your lawn. Nothing compares to walking through the neighborhood in person.
- Technology Misses Things – The same goes for seeing the home in person — it is still hard to tell if the floor is sloping, if the floor are real or fake, and what the true layout is when looking at a house online. Our first bad experience with sight unseen was when a realtor walked us through the entire house and told us the house was a fixer upper with real wood floors and great bones. Instead, the house had fake laminate floors in bad condition and the whole place was awful.
- Experience is Based on Your Realtor – Your experience really and truly will be determined by your realtor. If you have an amazing one who shows you all the flaws including where there was water damage, you can know upfront if you want the house or not.
House Hunting in Person
- Getting a Feel for the Area – In my opinion, there is nothing like driving around the area, and walking the neighborhoods.
- Being Able to Walk Through The Houses and See What’s Available – I try super hard to keep my must-haves super low. I find that we rarely buy what we expected. For example, for our first house we wanted a house on 1-2 acres, but we ended up finding a home with 1/3 of an acre. Just this past trip, I went in with the intention to find a multi-plex, and well, let’s just say I left not in love with anything.
- Being Able to Meet your Realtor in Person – A terrific realtor is key. In my experience, they make it or break it when buying a home.
- It Is Expensive – Paying for flights, hotels, rental cars, and food can get expensive quickly.
- Potentially Impossible – If your husband can’t get time off or you have little children, it might not be possible to get away.
- Timing Does Not Match Up – House hunting leave is best when it is 45-60 days out. While we have seen a lot of different things over the years, I have noticed sellers want to close within 30-60 days. While this was different when we were doing our short sales, I have noticed timing is important.
- Waste of Time – If the house falls through, it could all end up as a giant waste of time and you’ll have to buy a house sight unseen anyway.
Our Happy Medium
Over the years we have bought homes in almost both ways, thanks to the Navy making some decisions for us. While we have never bought a house totally sight unseen, we have gotten really close. Every time that we have flown out to a new area, we have been thankful.
Recently, we flew out to see Whidbey Island. I had every intention of buying a multiplex, but after our trip I was strongly reconsidering. The house I was in love with unseen no longer interests me. The one I almost didn’t see, I am in love with but the numbers aren’t great. At the end of the day, I don’t know what my decision is going to be. I do know the money was so worth it to fly out there though.
What has been your experience? Do you buy a house sight unseen? Do you house hunt in person? Or do you wait until you move to the area?0