Buying a property without physically inspecting it By Sarah Sharples

A Melbourne man snapped a $590,000 apartment just four days after it was listed, but he didn’t even set foot inside before making the purchase.
Buying a property without physically inspecting it     By Sarah Sharples
Beau Arfi snapped up a $590,000 apartment in Melbourne just four days after it was advertised but he never physically stepped inside the property. 

Lockdown restrictions meant he couldn’t see it in person, so instead, floorplans, a video walkthrough with the real estate agent and a call to the council were enough to convince him it was a place where he could live. 

“It was definitely daunting, but I was on the phone for 15 minutes on FaceTime with the real estate agent and I was getting measurements of the areas off him and he sent across a video after the call,” the 27-year-old told 

“I had conversations with the council to check the surrounding properties height limits as I didn’t want to lose my views, so all those things helped make the process easier.” 

Mr Arfi had been looking for a property for three months and said he knew exactly what he wanted. 

It had to have two bedrooms, unobstructed views to the city, a lounge and dining area big enough for a table for five, decent sized bedrooms and could not be facing another apartment. He also wanted to “move out, badly” as he was still living with his parents. 

But he’s no stranger to the industry, with an investment portfolio of 17 homes, the first of which he bought when he was 19. 

Still, he said it was “scary” buying a place he had only seen over video. 

“It was still nerve-wracking — buying your own home is different to buying an investment and it’s the first home I’ve ever lived in,” he said. 

The property broker said he thinks it will become increasingly common for people to buy a home sight unseen, even once lockdowns are a thing of the past. 

“I think that Covid has changed the environment of purchasing a lot. I think Covid as well as the market heating up means people are noticing they don’t have some of the luxuries they used to have where they could play games with an agent and take a month to make an offer,” he said. 

“We are seeing an environment where people will pull the trigger a lot earlier and have to make a decision when they are 70 to 80 per cent sure, rather than 100 per cent sure, and Covid has created a normality in the sense of not having to attend locations, whether it’s to do with work or property.” 

In fact, Aussies are more likely to purchase a property sight unseen than they are a pet, vehicle or boat, according to research from financial comparison website Canstar. 

It found that 11 per cent of Aussies would be willing to purchase a property for owner-occupier or investment purposes without viewing it in person, whereas just 10 per cent would do the same for a vehicle, and 8 per cent for a pet. 

The results also found that 8 per cent of Australians would be willing to commit to a rental property without inspecting it in person, while just 5 per cent would do the same for a boat. 

Canstar’s editor-at-large Effie Zahos said Aussies are working, socialising and shopping online more than ever before, and this has resulted in some interesting buying trends, especially within the property market. 

“Since the start of the pandemic, surging house prices in capital cities have sparked a regional property boom, with buyers abandoning the big smoke in favour of affordable housing and less restrictions. But regional prices are now creeping up, fuelling a growing sense of urgency among buyers desperate to crack the market,” she noted. 

“With nearly half the population now in lockdown, impacted buyers are unable to travel interstate or even outside their local government area to inspect a home. This leaves them with little choice but to go online, and some real estate agents have reported an increase in buyers competing for property through virtual auctions.” 

But if you are considering buying a home sight unseen, or even committing to a rental, it’s imperative to do your research beforehand, Zahos warned. 

A property is a huge financial commitment, regardless of whether you intend to live in it yourself or use it for investment purposes, she added. 

“When it comes to buying sight unseen, the real trick – apart from extensive research – is to listen to your gut instinct,” she advised. 

“If you’re getting a bad feeling about something, then you’re probably spot on. Be it a property or a pet, don’t let the notion of ‘love at first sight’ come back to bite you.” 

Four tips for buying a property sight unseen 

1. Make the most of virtual tools. If you’re interested in a property, you can view the home and its surroundings via Google Street View. Suburb profiles from reputable sources can provide a good indication of buying trends and demographics in the area. Virtual inspections, appointment based video tours and floor plans are also king. 

2.Use a buyers’ agent. They can scope out a property on your behalf, or recommend other properties in the area based on your preferences. They can even negotiate or bid at auction on your behalf, but bear in mind that they can be expensive, which can push up your buying costs. 

3. Get a second opinion. If you have friends or relatives living in the area, ask them to view the property for you as well. They may not necessarily have the same professional knowledge as a buyers’ agent, but they will be more likely to give you their honest opinion – good or bad. 

4. Don’t skimp on building or pest inspections. If you’re buying sight unseen, it’s even more important to do your due diligence – the more boots you can get on the ground beforehand the better. A building inspection will check for things like structural defects, while a pest inspection will look for evidence of termites or pre-existing pest damage. This can be the difference between buying your dream home and buying into a nightmare. 

Being aware of what is happening in the market can save you thousands 

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