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Many buyers keen to sight unseen By Bay Equity

It appears many potential home buyers are not deterred by the coronavirus pandemic, even if social distancing measures keep them from visiting listings in person.

“Sight unseen” used to be an option reserved almost exclusively for relocating military families. But with rising competition from low inventory, the trend became far more commonplace in the last few years, especially among first-time homebuyers.

In the age of the coronavirus, virtual tours aren’t just a thing – they’re becoming the only thing. Virtual tours at the major listing services are up by more than 500%.

In a recent survey, nearly a quarter of real estate agents reported clients signing contracts to buy homes without physically seeing the property. The median amount of homes toured by these shoppers – either virtually or in person –was just three.

By comparison, in its “2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers” the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that buyers looked at an average nine homes before signing a contract.

In the past two months, the crisis has taken the pace of housing industry tech from a slow jog to a full-on sprint in order to earn customers.

Nearly every phase of a real estate transaction can be completed without being in each other’s physical presence. After reaching out with social media, participants touch base with messaging apps and online conference calls.

The crisis is also building resourcefulness. Creative titling companies and attorneys are facilitating curbside and parking lot services, running masked and gloved between buyer, seller, and agent cars to collect needed signatures and distribute documents.

“Remarkably, 10% of Realtors report the same level or even more business activity now than before the economic lockdown,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

A third of respondents – 33% – reported no closing delays. For those reporting delays, the top reasons listed included delays in financing, appraisals and home inspections – not customer problems.