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Redfin sale sign
(Redfin Photo)

The hot housing markets in Seattle and others like it across the U.S. are leading more homebuyers to bypass the traditional concept of actually seeing, in person, the place they’re looking to buy and live in.

A new survey and report from Seattle-based real estate company Redfin reveals some of the trends being set by a new generation of homebuyers looking for ways to get ahead in the ultra-competitive landscape. The report details such things as how affordability was leading to adjustments in where to look; how political views of potential neighbors might affect the search process; what impact immigration restrictions have on Arab, Asian and Latino survey respondents; and the impact of rising mortgage rates.

But we were most intrigued by the fact that a third of homebuyers who bought a home in the last year said they made an offer on a home without first seeing it in person. Redfin says that’s up from 19 percent last year and from 21 percent two years ago. Millennials lead the charge here, with 41 percent saying they had done so.

Redfin site unseen offers
(Redfin Graphic)

In Seattle the number is a little lower than the national average, with 22 percent making an offer site unseen. Redfin says the percentage of those willing to buy without looking tends to rise as the median home price rises. The median in the Seattle area last May was $510,000, while San Francisco, for instance, had a median price of $1,290,000 and 35 percent made an offer site unseen. Here’s the survey breakdown:

  • Home price less than $250,000 – 19.5 percent made an offer site unseen
  • Home price $250,000-$499,999 – 24.2 percent made an offer site unseen
  • Home price $500,000-$749,999 – 41.2 percent made an offer site unseen
  • Home price $750,000 – $999,999 – 51.8 percent made an offer site unseen
  • Home price $1 million plus – 58.3 percent made an offer site unseen

But it’s not like these offers are being made with no clue whatsoever about what a house looks like. Obviously there are plenty of ways to view photographs and video tours online, and now 3D photography, including Redfin’s 3D Walkthrough, lets people virtually walk through Redfin listings.

Seattle-based Zillow has also added more technology to speed the process with the test launch last month of Instant Offers, in which home sellers can avoid traditional hassles and sell more quickly.

Redfin commissioned its survey of 3,350 U.S. residents in 11 metropolitan areas who in the past year bought or sold a home, attempted to do so or plan to do so soon.

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