Buying a property sight unseen seems like a risky, bold, and dangerous idea – but it’s not, so long as you have the right team working for you and access to the right tech tools.
Here is just one example of how our team helped a client buy a property sight unseen and the challenges we overcame to win them their dream home:
Last January, buyer clients M&S were referred to The Stokes Group by happy past clients. M&S were hoping to buy a condo in Arlington but they were currently living abroad in Malaysia while working for the State Department. They had orders to return to the DC area in July and wanted their new home to be waiting for them when they arrived. I knew this transaction would have added hurdles to clear, but I was up for the challenge.
Challenge 1: Communication
Communication was surprisingly one of the biggest challenges. Malaysia is on the opposite side of the world and exactly 12 hours ahead, which meant we were always in opposite phases of our day. We had a few hours of overlap outside of business hours as I would start my day and they would end theirs, so communication had to be direct, efficient, detailed, and proactive. There were many early morning and late night calls. It was also important for M&S to work with one of our trusted lenders that could be available outside of business hours, so big banks were out, and local direct lenders were in.
Challenge 2: Finding a Neighborhood
Learning the neighborhoods was the next hurdle. It was helpful that M&S both had in lived in Arlington for 10+ years previously, but the neighborhood feel, property values, and the overall market had evolved dramatically since they were here last. One of the best things a buyer can do to learn about a neighborhood is hang out in it, but that option was off the table with these clients. So instead, we used sales history, crime maps, listservs, and neighborhood blogs to tease out their desired locations.
Challenge 3: Viewing Properties
After M&S determined which neighborhoods they wanted to target, we were off to view properties. While 3D and video virtual tours of listings are great tools and gaining in popularity, they are still new to the industry and not available for every property. Thanks to video streaming, I was able to give M&S private interactive video tours with my tablet and/or smartphone. Facetime and Skype became our new best friends. I was able to tailor the tour to M&S–speed up, slow down, zoom in, zoom out–all while I was commentating and answering questions. M&S also took me up on my suggestion to have a personal representative, in their case a brother, tour top properties with me on their behalf. While they trusted me fully, having another advocate gave them comfort and reassurance.
Challenge 4: The Contract
Once M&S found “the one”, the contract process began. Northern Virginia has a 30+ page contract so typically I prefer to walk through it with buyers face-to-face the first time we make an offer on a property. This can be difficult with in-town buyers, let alone buyers that are half way around the world, especially if you are up against an offer deadline. M&S and I were able to talk through the contract over the phone so they fully understood what they were signing and what their rights and obligations were. Once they were ready to sign, we used DocuSign, an electronic signature service, so M&S simply clicked through the offer with no printing, signing, scanning, etc.
Challenge 5: Settlement
We cleared all of our contingencies and made it to settlement. As I mentioned earlier, M&S wanted to land from Malaysia and walk right in the front door of their new condo. That meant they had to perform settlement remotely. Two things needed to happen; the settlement documents needed to be signed and the closing funds needed to be delivered to the title company. In this jurisdiction, “wet” signatures are required, so M&S appointed their personal representative as their power of attorney (POA). Their POA was granted the right to sign the settlement documents on their behalf. M&S wired their cash to close from their bank directly to the settlement company. With those two boxes checked, M&S successful bought their property sight unseen.
So many of our buyer clients are moving to DC from far away places; they can confidently rely on The Stokes Group to assist them with their purchase even if they are half way around the world. If you’re about to make a long-distance move to the area, give us a call at 202.270.1081, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.