How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes

What are the problems with buying a house sight unseen?

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Buyers have to  move fast when they see a house they want in today’s hot real estate market. It is not unusual for a home to sell on the first day of listing, and sometimes at thousands more than the asking price. Out-of-town buyers lose out if they don’t make an offer quickly. 

    So we often do a home inspection for a faraway buyer that will not set foot in the house until just before closing. Usually things work out alright, but there are times when a buyer finally sees the home they have bought, and it’s less wonderful than it appeared in the listing photos and videos. Sometimes much less wonderful.

    A home inspection we did last week is a comic example. A buyer from upstate New York made an offer, based only on the listing photos, for a double-wide located just outside a rural central Florida town. The home was on a couple of acres, with oak trees and sabal palms dotted around it. The inspection went alright but, when we learned the buyer had not actually seen the house, we decided to tell him two things about the property that he did not know and are not part of a regular home inspection:1) The homesite was on a perimeter road next to the Florida Turnpike. Heavy, noisy traffic 24-hours a day was on the other side of their road. You had to raise your voice to have a conversation in the front yard, and...
2) A large billboard advertising the 24-hour adult bookstore at the next Turnpike exit was in the front yard, beside the entry drive. So the home was not quite as rural and picturesque as it appeared in the listing photos.

    If you absolutely have to buy a house sight unseen, we recommend having a friend or professional in the area stop by the home to be your eyes and ears. Plus, Google Street View is invaluable as a way to walk up and the down the nearby streets and get a feel for the neighborhood. And a home inspection by a licensed professional inspector after the contract is signed is yet another safeguard.

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  To learn more strategies for making the best possible home purchase decision, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection? 

How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?

Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

Can I do my own home inspection?

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole? 

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector? 

If we already looked at the house very carefully, do we still need a home inspection?

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property? 

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

What do I need to know about buying a foreclosure? 

What should I look for when buying a former rental house?  

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

What should I look for when buying a house that is being "flipped" by an investor seller? 

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

   Visit our HOME INSPECTION page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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