I recently got a call from prospective buyers ( Steve and Marie) who were living overseas in Belgium and had been referred by past clients of mine. During the phone call we went over their checklist…3 bedrooms, 2 baths, in a fantastic neighborhood in Arlington or Falls Church under $750,000.
Totally doable – I was ready to get started. I asked when they would be coming back to the States to begin house hunting and they told me that their schedule was tight and they felt like they could get a good sense for the homes by looking online. They were fine with me previewing the properties and giving them my opinion.
“Okay, but when we narrow down the properties, you’ll book a flight over here so that you can see them in person, right?” I asked.
“No,” replied Steve, “We trust your judgement.”
While I loved the vote of confidence, making such a decision on behalf of someone whom I’d never met gave me a twinge of anxiety. I had heard of people buying homes this way, but I have never been involved in a transaction like this. I explained my concerns but the reality was that they needed a house in 7 weeks and they were booking one flight to DCA and that would be for the closing.
So I hit the streets and began previewing homes. I took my iPad and iPhone and FaceTimed with the buyers as much as possible, pointing out every detail that couldn’t be conveyed by just looking online.
I quickly got my system down. Because of the time difference we had to FaceTime during certain hours. Sometimes FaceTime didn’t work in a property and other times both buyers weren’t available at the same time – so that’s when I used video. I took videos of everything – neighbors houses, traffic concerns, sidewalks or lack thereof. I made sure that anything that was possible negative was captured on video. Since I was just previewing I brought my 8-year-old daughter with me a couple of times to video the neighborhood while I drove. We took video from the house to the respective elementary school. I also showed them what was walkable from the house.
We were able to narrow down houses pretty quickly and they settled on a cute brick Cape Cod. When they finally did get to town, we met at the house for the final walkthrough. I held my breath while Steve and Marie saw the house they had purchased for the first time. Thankfully, they both approved.
It was an interesting experience for me and it is amazing to think of the ways that technology has changed and improved my industry. When you are looking for a home, nothing beats being there in person, but it is good to know that the tools are available to give my clients a virtual house hunting experience when necessary.