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Redfin: Two-thirds of home buyers in 2020 made offer sight unseen

The share of buyers making offers sight unseen is the highest since Redfin began tracking the data in 2015. (John Raoux/AP)
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When most of the country began shutting down in March 2020 in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, real estate agents immediately needed to up their virtual game.

Without the ability to accompany prospective buyers on in-person tours, agents created virtual tours, conducted virtual open houses and used tools such as FaceTime and Google Hangouts to walk around homes while chatting with clients. The result: 63 percent of buyers in 2020 made an offer on a home they never saw in person, according to research by Redfin, a real estate brokerage firm.

That share of buyers making offers sight unseen is the highest since Redfin began tracking the data in 2015. The nearly two-thirds of buyers who made an offer without visiting the property represents a jump above the previous record of 45 percent in July 2020 and 32 percent in 2019.

Consolidation and competition in real estate could mean consumers win, Redfin chief says

Redfin’s chief economist, Daryl Fairweather, says she anticipates the percentage of offers made based on a virtual visit will continue. She says she thinks the majority of house hunters will make an offer sight unseen in 2021 because of the comfort level with virtual tours and the number of buyers searching for a home out of town.

In 2020, 27.8 percent of Redfin buyers were looking to relocate, an all-time high for the company and up 2.3 percentage points from 25.5 percent in 2019. The ability of more people to work remotely is driving much of the interest in relocating.

Making an offer based on a virtual tour may also be increasing because of the fast pace of the housing market. Buyers who don’t have the time or ability to see a home in person right away may be willing to make an offer quickly because homes in some price ranges and locations sell within days.

For example, in the D.C. metro area, homes sold in a median of nine days in December 2020, according to Bright MLS. For the full Redfin report, click here.

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