Buying A Home Sight Unseen

June 19, 2018


If you’re long-distance home buying

Buying a house sight unseen? Here are a few tips for lowering your stress level (a little):

  • Sketch it out. It’s tough to wrap your head around the layout of a house from a handful of listing photos. Get a better sense of the flow by drawing a floor plan. If possible, get room dimensions to determine which furniture will have a place and what should be left behind.

  • Preview the views. Listing photos don’t always capture what you’ll see through the windows. For example, our dining room windows look out onto the neighbor’s wood fence. Ask your real estate agent to snap photos looking through the windows and, if possible, record a short video up and down the street to help provide a sense of the surroundings.

  • Embrace the folder. A move brings chaos. You’ll misplace your toothbrush, your phone charger and perhaps even your smallest child. At the same time, buying a home requires lots of very important paperwork that you absolutely must produce at a moment’s notice. Do yourself a favor: Go to the office supply store and buy the most obnoxiously bright, neon green document folder they sell. Put all the essential closing documents in there, and keep it handy.

  • Take care of yourself. The first impulse may be to drop everything to focus solely on packing and preparing for your new home. That’s important, of course, but don’t neglect the routine activities that make life feel “normal” for you. If you go to the gym, keep going, even if you have to cut workouts short. Catch a movie or concert. Meet a friend for coffee. This is an overwhelming and demanding time, but continuing to do things you enjoy will make your move less overwhelming.

  • Brace for impact. Walking into an empty house, particularly after seeing carefully staged listing photos, can be disorienting. The most common reaction? “Wow, this bedroom looks so small!” The scale of unfurnished rooms is notoriously hard to judge. Don’t freak out — once you get a few pieces of furniture in place, everything will feel more normal.

How to Handle Long-Distance Home Buying

Finding the perfect house where you live can be challenging, but picking out your next dream home from thousands of miles away is tremendously more complicated.

Long-distance house hunting can be tough, but sometimes it's necessary - especially in a state as isolated as Hawaii.  Yet although it has its unique challenges, modern technology has made the remote-home buying process easier than ever.

"Purchasing from afar can be a daunting and stressful experience, it can be much easier when working with a Realtor who uses technology smartly," said Island Sotheby's International Realty agent Alex Cortez R(B). "Delivery of documents, execution of contracts, sharing of video and photo files are all tools a tech-savvy agent has at their disposal."

There are still, however, some things you should keep in mind while shopping for homes on Maui from afar. Here are a few of our tips:

Before you take the plunge to buy a plane ticket or choose an agent, know exactly what you want in a home. Keep a running list of must-haves, whether that be living close to schools, being 10 minutes away from a beach or ample storage space.

Once you know exactly what you’re looking for and what your non-negotiable needs are, your agent will be able to select potential homes more easily. Everyone involved will be able to make the best of their time.

Make a travel budget

Traveling is expensive, period - especially when you have to fly across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. So before you get wrapped into the home buying process, make sure you have a travel budget to accommodate unexpected appointments.

Additionally, give yourself time - plan trips that are a few days long so you can go back to a home and view it for a second time. And if you can’t find anything you like, remember there’s always an option to build depending on where you choose to live.

Do Your Research

The internet is your friend when it comes to long-distance house hunting. Because you may not be there to experience what it’s like commuting to work or taking your kids to school, look up things like commute times, school rankings and amenities that are close to the home or neighborhood in question.

"With a plethora of information at their fingertips, buyers are able to conduct significant research ahead of a potential purchase," said Cortez. "Tax records, flood maps, permits and other public databases are frequently available."


On Maui, different parts of the island offer vastly different lifestyles. For example, do you want to live in lush - and sometimes rainy - Haiku, or live in Kihei to be right next to the beach? Do you want to live in a condominium with no yard maintenance or have a home with a garden? 

And perhaps most importantly, it’s critical that you find a real estate agent that you can trust. Having an agent that can communicate for you and seek out the best home for you can make or break the transaction. Happy house hunting!








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