How to Buy a Home Sight Unseen
If you're thinking about buying a house right now, you're probably wondering how best to go about it. The truth is, you can still do in-person tours in some places, depending on the local regulations, but many people are buying homes right now without stepping foot inside until the deal is done.
Sight unseen deals are nothing new, but up until recently they were used mostly for foreign buyers, investors, or long-distance home shoppers. These types of remote deals have become more mainstream in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there's evidence to suggest they're more than a passing trend.
A survey from 2018 showed that about 20% of homebuyers had made an offer on a home without seeing it first. A more recent, COVID-19-influenced survey, found that 45% of homebuyers in the last year had made an offer without seeing the property in person. In April of this year, Realtor.com found that "24% of 1,300 consumers surveyed said they'd be willing to buy a home without first seeing it in person."
If you're considering purchasing a home sight unseen, keep these tips in mind:
Work with the right agent
If you're buying a house without touring it first, you have to depend on your agent to be your eyes and ears. It's crucial that you go with a local expert, especially if you aren't super familiar with the area.
Take advantage of technology
Online listings with 3D home tours are up by more than 600% since the pandemic hit. Listings that have this functionality are likely to rise to the top because they give you a better feel for the home. Remember, whether you're looking at a carousel of images or a 3D tour, don't forget to ask your agent to go a step further.
"Once you know which homes you're most interested in, have your agent book some showings and take you along on the tour using FaceTime," said HomeLight. Being able to view the property with someone in real-time will allow you to ask questions while getting an understanding of the "flow" of the home.
Then, ask for a floorplan
Today, you're more likely to find home listings that include a floorplan image. If you don't see one, make sure to ask. While video tours offer an understanding of how a home feels, a detailed floorplan helps you ensure it measures up to your needs.
Knowing the full layout of a home will give you some insight on what day-to-day life will be like. For example, watching a video tour might not reveal the fact that the new home office you're excited about shares a wall with a noisy laundry room. Also, being able to quickly reference dimensions will allow you to imagine how you and your furniture will fit into the new space.
Order an appraisal and a home inspection
Even in cases where they're not required, you don't want to skip these steps. Especially when you can't or don't want to tour a home yourself, having expert and objective documentation regarding the value and condition of the home is more important than ever.
Most Tax-Friendly States of 2020
Retirees are often the main group we imagine moving from higher-tax states to states considered tax-friendly. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has led younger people, many of whom are in their prime career years, to also look for low-cost places to relocate. Telecommuting has made it possible to leave big (often expensive) urban areas and work from anywhere, which is one factor behind the shift.
The following are some of the country's most tax-friendly states right now, regardless of why you might be relocating.
There's no state income tax in Wyoming, and the average state and local sales tax is just over 5.3%. The average property taxes are $635 per $100,000 in home value. Wyoming has a strong mineral and energy extraction industry, and that's one of the reasons the state can keep taxes low for residents.
There is no state income tax in Nevada, and the average property tax in the state is $693 per $100,000 in home value. The tax-friendly nature of Nevada may be one reason there's an influx of Californians moving to the state and the scenic Lake Tahoe area in particular. Nevada receives over a billion dollars each year from the casino and tourism industry, which helps them avoid imposing a state income tax.
Florida has no state income tax, but property taxes tend to hover around the national average. The state and local sales tax rate is also somewhere around average for the country at 7.05% combined.
Alaska may not provide you with sunshine and beaches, but it could be an economically sound decision. Alaska residents pay neither state income taxes nor state sales tax. Certain municipalities in Alaska might impose local sales taxes that are as high as 7.5%, but even so, the average local sales tax hovers around 1.76%. There's also the Permanent Fund Dividend ($992 for 2020), which is paid to every Alaska resident who's lived there for a full year.
Prior to 2016, Tennessee did not tax wages, but still taxed income from investments and other "unearned income." Legislation was passed in 2016 to gradually eliminate taxes on investments by 2021. The state currently carries the third lowest tax-burden in the United States.