Nearly two thirds (63%) of people who bought a home in 2020 made an offer on a property that they hadn’t seen in person, the highest share since at least 2015. That’s up from 32% a year earlier and 45% in July, which was previously the high point, according to a report from Redfin. The report is based on a survey that the technology-powered real estate brokerage commissioned in November and December of more than 1,900 homebuyers across 32 major markets.
“The virtual home tour is here to stay,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “Homebuyers who are searching for a home out of town and don’t have the time or ability to view the home in person will use virtual tours as their primary means of viewing a home. The increased use of this technology, coupled with more people relocating, mean the sight-unseen trend will continue, and the majority of homebuyers will make offers sight unseen during their search for a home in 2021.”
Video tours with a Redfin agent have surged this year, from less than 1% of Redfin tour requests at the beginning of 2020 to about 1 in 10 today, the company said. Similarly, monthly views of 3D walkthroughs on Redfin.com have increased 563% since February.
“Live-video home tours have gone from futuristic fantasy to an everyday part of the homebuying process,” said Connecticut-based Redfin Agent Mary Ellen Wisneski. “Over video I’m able to show my buyers closeups of anything in the home and describe peculiar details they can’t experience in 3D walkthroughs or photographs — it’s like they are actually there with me.”
Much of this virtual home-buying activity is being fueled by a surge in migration as remote work becomes much more common. In 2020, 27.8% of Redfin.com users were looking to relocate, an all-time high and up 2.3 percentage points from 25.5% in 2019.