Last year changed a lot of things in this country, including what people needed from their home. People suddenly needed their homes to be offices, schools, and much more. That change drove a dramatic shift in what buyers were looking for.
But what people wanted from their homes wasn’t the only thing that changed. Last year also changed how people bought their home. Namely, a large portion of homebuyers made an offer on a home without seeing it in person.
According to a new report from Redfin, nearly two-thirds of homebuyers in 2020 made an offer on a home sight unseen, nearly twice as many as the year before.
Redfin has been tracking the share of homebuyers who make an offer on a home without seeing it, and last year shattered all previous totals.
In 2020, approximately 63% of buyers made an offer on a home they hadn’t seen in person, well above the previous year’s total of 32%.
Redfin’s report is based on a survey of more than 1,900 homebuyers in 32 major housing markets conducted in November and December.
In the survey, people were asked if they bought a home last year. If they said yes, Redfin then asked the following question: “Did you, at any point in your home-search process, make an offer on a home you hadn’t seen in person?”
And according to the report, 63% of the respondents answered that they did indeed make an offer without seeing the house in person.
As for why there was such a dramatic increase, there are multiple reasons, but the largest one is obviously the pandemic.
With social distancing measures becoming commonplace throughout the year, many buyers were not able to visit a home they were interested in, either due to the seller’s preference not to have other people in their home, the buyer’s preference not to visit someone else’s home, or perhaps local or state restrictions.
That drove a substantial increase in virtual home showings in 2020, which were already on the rise due to advances in technology. Another reason why more buyers were ready to make an offer sight unseen was that many people were moving to new areas, as many people (and their employers) embraced remote working.
Add it all together and you have a seismic shift in how people buy homes.
Case in point: According to Redfin, monthly views of 3D walkthroughs on its site increased 563% from February 2020 to the end of the year.
“The virtual home tour is here to stay,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather.
“Homebuyers who are searching for a home out of town and don't have the time or ability to view the home in person will use virtual tours as their primary means of viewing a home,” Fairweather continued. “The increased use of this technology, coupled with more people relocating, mean the sight-unseen trend will continue, and the majority of homebuyers will make offers sight unseen during their search for a home in 2021.”