Are people buying Valley homes sight unseen?

Karl Klein is a broker for the mountain office at Sugarbush Real Estate. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Klein has gotten used to showing properties over FaceTime, which, according to him, has been a fruitful endeavor.

“I have been doing most of my showing through FaceTime for the last seven weeks,” said Klein. “I’ve had very good results.”

Klein explained how FaceTime has helped realtors keep active during the crux of the coronavirus lockdown. “Early on, people couldn’t come up here. They couldn’t look at property unless they had quarantined for two weeks. So we were using FaceTime exclusively and then hoping people could get up here and shelter in place for a few weeks prior to the home inspection.”

While some publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have cited instances of buyers purchasing property without stepping foot inside, Klein said that Sugarbush Real Estate has yet to see a buyer purchase a property sight unseen.

“Normally what happens is they make the offer and go under contract based on the FaceTime tour, but at some point prior to it actually selling, they want to come and see it,” said Klein.

In other words, FaceTime tours help buyers decide whether or not they want to make an offer, but most buyers come see the property during the home inspection process before taking the purchasing plunge. “Home inspection is the last opportunity for clients to view the property in person and terminate the contract if they find a problem,” said Klein.


Klein also noted the unique challenges that sellers face when buyers make remote offers based on FaceTime tours alone. Given its shortage of listings, The Valley is a seller-oriented market, with many properties receiving more than one offer.

“It’s hard for a seller to enter a contract with a buyer who hasn’t seen a property. If there’s only one person looking at it, its fine, but it’s tough for a property with multiple offers,” said Klein, who went on to explain how a canceled offer from a remote buyer can stigmatize a property.

“When a buyer makes an offer without seeing the property, the seller removes the property from the market. When a contract is accepted, it goes from being an active listing to a listing that’s active under contract. At that point, most agents are not going to show the home because they know there’s already an accepted offer on it,” said Klein. “And if it goes back on the market, people think, what happened? There must be something wrong with the house.”

According to Klein, remote buyers are more likely to terminate the contract during home inspection than in-person property viewers. Why? The reason for terminating is different for everyone. Maybe when the FaceTime buyers come to visit, they realize they don’t like the neighborhood. Maybe they realize there’s a farm next door with cows that they couldn’t smell over FaceTime.

This is why sellers are more inclined to sell to local buyers who can see the property in person. For instance, Klein had a client who took a FaceTime tour of a place but couldn’t come up to see it. Klein’s client made a nice offer: It was a cash offer for more than the asking price. However, the seller still went with the local buyer who had actually seen the property.

Still, Klein says FaceTime tours are a useful tool to spark people’s interest in a property. “For me, showing a home on FaceTime is just fine,” said Klein. “People generally feel good about what they’ve seen.”