The internet has changed every aspect of life, including buying a house. And now, for the first time ever, it’s possible to buy a house completely online. The only question is, should you?
The Online Home Buying Process
Buying a house online makes sense for a lot of reasons, including:
- Relocating to a new city/state because of work
- Buying a vacation home in a far-away locale
- Buying a house during an era of social distancing
The online home buying process eliminates much of the back and forth trips and visits that eat away at your schedule and make purchasing real estate so burdensome. It makes it exponentially easier and less stressful.
Here’s a look at some of the tasks you can perform remotely:
Every home purchase process should begin with an analysis of what’s affordable given your own income, expenses, current debt, and other financial constraints.
Using a home loan calculator, you can play around with different numbers and get an idea of some ballpark estimates for monthly payments (and how various changes impact this figure).
The next step is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Again, this is something that can easily be done online. In many cases, all you have to do is answer a few basic questions about your financial status and you’ll get approved for a certain amount within a matter of hours. (Other lenders can take a few days, but this is still a reasonable timeframe for such an important step.)
Worried about sharing sensitive data and personal information online? Every lender is different, but many have secure, encrypted networks where you share and store approval documents. This prevents you from having to email sensitive documentation.
Finding a House
Now for the fun part: finding your dream home.
This is the part of the process that most people have some familiarity with. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia make it easy to search for and find potential properties with just a few clicks.
Because searching for a home online can be so time-consuming and repetitive, it’s best to utilize built-in features to create customized features that trigger email notifications when new properties that meet your criteria are listed.
You can even set these features up to go directly to your real estate agent (whom you can find online) so that they can vet them ahead of time and only pass along the ones that truly meet your needs.
Seeing a House
If you’re unable to see the property in person, there are workarounds. You may be able to request a virtual showing from the listing agent and/or perform a virtual walkthrough using 3D software. If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to take the due diligence phase seriously.
Performing Due Diligence
Due diligence is always important, but especially when buying a house online. Hire inspectors, order reports, run title searches, check out the tax records, etc. (Many of these tasks will be performed on your behalf and/or required as part of the financing process.)
Closing on a House
The E-Sign Act of 2000 means wet signatures are no longer a requirement for a document to be legally binding. Electronic signatures are just as valid. However, most attorneys still require physical signatures, so you’ll have to work closely with your agent to make sure all of the proper documents are received, signed, sent, and processed at the appropriate times.
The New Wave of Home Buying
While buying a house via the internet is now possible, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should handle the process completely online. Most experts recommend streamlining specific aspects online – like financing, identifying potential properties, and performing certain due diligence tasks – while continuing to handle other elements in person.
For example, you should make it a point to physically walk through any home you’re planning to buy – even if it means taking a cross-country flight to make it happen. This could prevent you from making a terrible financial mistake.
In the future, hybrid home buying will continue to be the preferred approach for many. This method involves a combination of online and offline methodologies, which work in tandem to make purchasing (and selling) real estate as efficient and frictionless as possible.