1 in 3 Homebuyers Making Offers Sight-Unseen

A growing number of Americans are making the most important financial decision of their lives without seeing what they’re buying first.

Redfin, Seattle, said 33 percent of people who bought a home in the past year made an offer without first seeing the home in person, based on a May survey of 3,350 home buyers and sellers. This was up from 19 percent in a similar survey from last year.

Redfin Chief Economist Nela Richardson said the upward trend in sight-unseen offers stems from Millennial behavior; 41 percent of Millennials said they had made sight-unseen offers, compared to 30 percent of Gen-Xers and 12 percent of Baby Boomers.

“Millennials are already starting to set trends in the real estate industry,” Richardson said. “They are three times more likely than Baby Boomers to make an offer sight-unseen, and they’re more likely than older buyers and sellers to negotiate commission savings.”

Richardson added the strong prevalence of sight-unseen bids this year is likely due in part to the record-fast speed of today’s highly competitive housing market. The typical home that sold in May went under contract in just 37 days, a week faster than homes were selling a year ago and the fastest pace on record since at least 2010, when Redfin began tracking such data.

Richardson noted, however, that Millennials could also simply be taking advantage of technology. Companies such as Redfin help buyers make more informed decisions about homes before setting foot in them thorugh interactive 3D photography that lets people virtually walk through its listings online.

Other major findings:

–Affordable housing was the most prevalent economic concern, cited by 40 percent of buyers; rising prices caused 21 percent to search in other metro areas where homes cost less.

–Forty-one percent of buyers would be hesitant to move to a place where people have different political views from their own.

–Orders restricting immigration influenced the buying and selling plans of 52 percent of Arab, Asian and Latino respondents; 45 percent of minority buyers felt that sellers and their agents may have been less eager to work with them because of their race.

–Buyers remain resilient amid the prospect of rising mortgage rates. Just 5 percent said they’d cancel their plans if rates surpass 5 percent.

–Fifty-one percent of buyers and 46 percent of sellers saved money on real estate commissions.

The survey noted despite their tech-savvy confidence, politics are seeping into Millennials’ decisions about where to live; nearly half cited hesitations about moving to a place where their neighbors wouldn’t share their views. Many buyers reported hesitations about moving to a place where most people have political views different from their own. More than half of Arab, Asian and Latino respondents said recent immigration orders influenced their buying or selling plans; 45 percent of all minority respondents thought sellers or agents may have treated them differently because of their race.