Thirty-three percent of people in the U.S. who bought a home in the last year said they had made an offer on a home without first seeing it in person, up from 19% 2016 and 21% in 2015, according to real estate broker Redfin.
In a survey Redfin released Wednesday, 41% of millennials reported making a sight-unseen bid, compared with 30% of Gen Xers and 12% of baby boomers.
SurveyGizmo fielded the study in May, using the its audience platform to reach 3,350 people from the general population in 11 major metropolitan areas who said they had bought or sold a home in the past year, tried to do so or planned to do so this year.
The metro areas were Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.
Redfin ascribed the prevalence of this year’s sight-unseen bids largely to the speed of today’s highly competitive housing market. It said the typical home sold in May went under contract in 37 days, the fastest pace on record since at least 2010, when Redfin began keeping track.
Technology also has a lot to do with this behavior, according to Rachel Musiker, Redfin’s senior communications manager who writes about the national housing market.
In an email message, she pointed to the Denver market as an example, where the typical home that sold in May went under contract in just six days.
“Especially in places like Denver, Redfin agents say that a lot of their clients are moving there from other parts of the country, and can’t necessarily fly in every weekend to house hunt.”
Prospective buyers also look at abundant information and photos available online about homes for sale and conditions in a community for living, working and raising a family. As well, they may ask family or friends in the area to check out a home on their behalf.
Musiker pointed out that the survey asked whether respondents had made an offer sight unseen, not whether they had closed on the purchase without seeing the home in person.
“Buyers who offer sight unseen typically make it to the inspection in person or go see the home at some other point while the home is in the escrow/closing process when they might still have opportunities to get out of the contract if they decide not to move forward with the home.”
Still, she said, some Redfin clients — most often investors or foreign buyers, but also some busy people moving across the country — have bought homes without seeing them until after closing.