Fewer than 10% of homes sold via virtual real estate transactions

A small percentage of homes are sold without the buyer seeing the property in person:

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The National Association of Realtors first started collecting data on virtual real estate transactions in April 2020, according to Jessica Lautz, deputy chief economist and vice president of research. Virtual home sales, which are sometimes referred to as “blind offers” or “sight unseen sales,” peaked at 13% of all transactions in January 2022. By November 2022, that number dropped to 9%.

Lautz sees two drivers for virtual sales, beyond the pandemic. “It’s not only because inventory is tight, but people are moving longer distances. It might be very difficult to make your way to that home before it is under contract,” she said. “If you’re moving to a different state, the ability to quickly book a flight because that perfect home has just come onto the market may be impossible.”…

Lautz sees virtual transactions continuing, even if they’re less frequent. “If you had asked me that at the start of the pandemic, I would have thought it was a fluke. But it seems to be here to stay.”

Virtual transactions may reflect another shift, as the National Association of Realtors sees the median distance folks relocate increasing to 50 miles. “It makes sense because of housing affordability, people are moving farther out because of hybrid or remote work,” Lautz said. Being close to friends and family is top priority for so many buyers today, so they may be moving to a different area to seek that.”

Several thoughts in reaction to these numbers:

-I thought the percentage might have been higher during the pandemic. But, even then, seeing a property in person matter mattered.

-How much can technology remedy the desire to see a property in person? How long until prospective buyers could walk through a housing unit in the virtual realm? This is related to the biggest question I have: how well could technology substitute for being in a space? One matter is feeling like you were in person and could experience everything. Another matter is whether the technology allows you to consider everything. If that technology could be improved, maybe it can provide enough or all of the experience.

-Would more virtual showings increase the need for realtors or reduce them? If the main issue is technology being able to show everything about a unit, I could imagine it done without a realtor. If the main issue is about knowing a community and having connections, then the realtor continues even if the technology improves.

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