Long distance real estate without the visit

68 Replies

Hello all, I'm currently doing a 1031. I have approximately 55 days to purchase. I'm selling California real estate and the prices of course are high, and I'm moving to a more stable market. I've decided to purchase near military bases in an area that has good wages/price/rent ratio. Possibly an airbnb as well. With that said, time is of the essence. Even though I've read "the books" and am in contact with trusted real estate agents, wondering what your thoughts are, if you are an experienced long distance real estate investor that buys sight unseen. Any info is greatly appreciated!

A new person I just met, that's a realtor, offered for me to come out and check out the town. I'm willing, but the timing is tight. So I'm wondering what others think. David Green seems to think otherwise and has given step by step instructions how to do so. BUT, I'm also wondering for those of us, that are a bit more curious/concerned. I've heard of plenty of investors purchasing sight unseen, but??? 

@Jennifer Roberts

I have not purchased property this way but as an agent, I do take detailed GoPro videos of houses and find out everything that I can for out of town buyers. I point out everything concerning that I see and we do some quick math on the potential outcomes.  We have put houses under contract without them physically being in the house and they still had an inspection contingency so that they could have an inspection (by an inspector and a walkthrough themselves).

If you have a good agent, they should be able to get you in contract and still protect your interests. 

Originally posted by @Jonathan Hulen :

@Theresa Harris In today’s market good luck with that. There’s a dozen out of state investors lined up willing to buy that house sight unseen.

 And that is fine.  But two wrongs don't make a right.  Just because others are willing to buy it sight unseen, doesn't mean it is a good idea.

Originally posted by @Theresa Harris :
Originally posted by @Jonathan Hulen:

@Theresa Harris In today’s market good luck with that. There’s a dozen out of state investors lined up willing to buy that house sight unseen.

 And that is fine.  But two wrongs don't make a right.  Just because others are willing to buy it sight unseen, doesn't mean it is a good idea.

With modern technology, distance doesn’t mean much anymore. I FaceTime my realtor and PM when they are walking through the house. I see what they see. I’ve bought 2 houses without physically laying eyes on them. 

Originally posted by @Jonathan Hulen :
Originally posted by @Theresa Harris:
Originally posted by @Jonathan Hulen:

@Theresa Harris In today’s market good luck with that. There’s a dozen out of state investors lined up willing to buy that house sight unseen.

 And that is fine.  But two wrongs don't make a right.  Just because others are willing to buy it sight unseen, doesn't mean it is a good idea.

With modern technology, distance doesn’t mean much anymore. I FaceTime my realtor and PM when they are walking through the house. I see what they see. I’ve bought 2 houses without physically laying eyes on them. 

 I've done that as well except I have a trusted family member who viewed them. There is one I've had for 6 years that I've never set foot in.

I'd recommend networking and finding some boots on the ground whop can help keep an eye on the property there. It'd have to be someone you trust, and that could take time. But it'd be worth it if you can't be there in person. 

I have purchased multiple investment properties out of state, without seeing them, and I haven't regretted it once. Unless you are a home inspector, appraiser, or are otherwise very knowledgeable about what to look for in a property (I am not!) then you're just wasting time and money by going to look at it. It's much more important to have a rock star real estate agent who understands your goals and what you're looking for in a home and neighborhood and then just hire a great inspector to check the condition of the home itself. If you have the right people in the right jobs, then you can mitigate the risk of buying out of state, sight unseen. 

Do you think the big-time real estate investors walk through every property they purchase? No way. They have people for that, and these people are way better at looking at properties than they are. 

Good luck on your 1031 and keep us updated on your journey!

@Jennifer Roberts

I'm close enough to a home inspector for the difference not to matter in this case.

I think a large part of it depends on what and why you're buying. I buy old C-class for long-term buy-and-hold, 90+year-old properties, single family and small multifamily. All my stuff is local, some within walking distance these days of my home. I do what I do and it works, because NOBODY sees what I see. I buy everything with cash, with no contingencies and large earnest money payments. I am your prototypical C-class local operator./

The situation is very difference if you're not buying such risky properties under these terms and if you're paying for a home inspection from a licensed inspection, which I would always recommend for normal people. The problem then changes from one of competency to one of trust. Do you have people you can trust out there doing the work for you? People you've built up a relationship with and tested that relationship? Do you feel they're competent to inspect the property for your needs? It's a whole different world from mine, where if you miss something you can be out-of-pocket on some very significant costs.

Real estate agents are always trying to make deals happen. I'm with @Theresa Harris on this one -- this is probably not someone you should be trusting as your dealfinder on the ground with your best interests in mind. I am married to a Russian and I believe very strongly in that time-honored old Russian proverb: Доверяй, но проверяй  Trust but verify. 

Never buy without touring. You can put under contract sight unseen but you need to tour yourself at some point. For all you know building could be leaning over, etc. many things passed over by inspectors/agents. 

Originally posted by @Douglas Spence :

I have purchased multiple investment properties out of state, without seeing them, and I haven't regretted it once. Unless you are a home inspector, appraiser, or are otherwise very knowledgeable about what to look for in a property (I am not!) then you're just wasting time and money by going to look at it. It's much more important to have a rock star real estate agent who understands your goals and what you're looking for in a home and neighborhood and then just hire a great inspector to check the condition of the home itself. If you have the right people in the right jobs, then you can mitigate the risk of buying out of state, sight unseen. 

Do you think the big-time real estate investors walk through every property they purchase? No way. They have people for that, and these people are way better at looking at properties than they are. 

Good luck on your 1031 and keep us updated on your journey!

 This is such a great point! Thank you, we all needed to hear it. Cheers!

@Jennifer Roberts

I used facetime/whatsapp with the local realtor to do the virtual tour while going through a checklist. If you have owned a house before you kind of get an idea of what to look for or How long things generally last. You can then order a inspection, sewer scope, etc. when your offer gets accepted.

@Jennifer Roberts I buy sight unseen regularly. But I have the following that I trust completely: An amazing real estate agent, inspector and a crawl space company.

I don't think you have to visit the property but you need trusted information on whether the property is a good investment or not.

@Jennifer Roberts just want to double down on what some others have said that you can absolutely do this with the technology available nowadays. As others have mentioned, that "core four" and trusted boots on the ground are key. I have been buying properties sight unseen from overseas for several years and have no regrets. My main recommendation would be to find a trustworthy, rockstar agent and/or lender in the market in which you are looking, and then ask them who else THEY work with in that market. If they are doing good business, they will be working with other partners that are doing good business in that market as well. Bottom line is, you can absolutely do it, even in that tight 1031 time frame:)

@Jennifer Roberts We've purchased 46 small multifamily and 588 large multifamily out of state. I started buying duplexes in North Carolina while living in Phoenix and executing the BRRRR method. I've actually never visited those duplexes. All done with the power of partnerships and good communication.

Find a good PM. Have multiple calls. Find a good contractor. Have multiple calls. Find a good agent. Have multiple calls. Pay them to walk the grounds if need be and video for you. Most will help in this manner as the long term relationship far outweighs any extra effort for a remote investor. Build those lasting partnerships and it's much easier then it looks.

That being said, just like any investing, it takes work. So if you don't want to work, don't do it. Just depending on any old partner, pm, agent or contractor will get you in trouble. Develop the right relationships and they'll set you up for success.

In my opinion, those who say it is not doable are simply operating from a place of fear and unknown. Up to you to decide what type of investor you want to be, neither is bad or good, just different. Local investing has it's place but freedom of choosing expanding markets is far more powerful in my opinion and sets you up with some really important skillsets.

Happy Investing!

It's kind of strange that you said you have 55 days to purchase. Normally, you have 45 days to identify your properties and 180 days to close. If you haven't close escrow yet, perhaps ask for an extension to buy yourself more time? But obviously that depends on the buyer willing to cooperate.