Blind Offers: Are DC Homebuyers Really Bidding on Homes They Haven’t Seen?

by Nena Perry-Brown

Blind Offers: Are DC Homebuyers Really Bidding on Homes They Haven't Seen?: Figure 1
A condo at The Radius in Logan Circle.

A few years ago, DC real estate agent Max Rabin of TTR Sotheby's International Realty was working with a client who wanted to purchase a two-bedroom condo in Logan Circle for his daughter. The problem was that he lived in San Francisco and his daughter wasn't in DC at the time. So, if he made an offer, he would have to do it without seeing the home first. The client ultimately bid on the unit and that bid was accepted.

"He did not actually see the unit until about two weeks after settlement when he came to DC with his wife and daughter," Rabin said. "It was an awkward and nervous moment, but they were all very happy with the unit."

Instances like this might seem rare in the home buying world. Who in their right mind would make an offer on a home, the largest financial decision that many people make, without seeing it first? Well, it may not be as uncommon as people think. A recent study from Redfin concluded that 32 percent of buyers who purchased homes in DC last year made offers on listings they had not seen. Considering the District's status as the seat of federal government and home of several universities, there are likely a variety of situations in which would-be homebuyers put in offers on homes sight unseen, but one in three buyers is a very high percentage.

"In today's fast market​ with low inventory​, there are situations where a buyer has seen a lot of homes and knows ​precisely ​what they are looking for​," Redfin agent Steve Centrella said. 

"I think it's pretty rare, but it definitely happens," Mandy Mills of Compass told UrbanTurf. "When the market is a little hotter and things go very quickly, it's sometimes necessary to do that to get the right house."

To be clear, the study notes that the majority of buyers who made offers before seeing the listing, ultimately saw the home during or before the home inspection. There's also a sizeable portion of the market for which sight-unseen offers are the norm: new construction. "Lots of buyers put down deposits based on renderings and floor plans which are all subject to change," explains Rabin. "Many buyers for new condos don't see the final product until they step into the unit at a final walk through."

Another group that might be pushing the percentage of "blind offers" up are investors. 

"I think investors will buy things without seeing them," Mills noted. "They don't care what it looks like, they care that it has the return rate to be a good investment, so I have to think that they account for a big portion of that 32 percent."

Judging by Redfin's data, 32 percent is actually a below-average rate nationwide, where 35 percent of homebuyers put in blind offers on houses last year. In Los Angeles, 57 percent of homebuyers had made offers on homes they hadn't seen; San Diego comes in second at 46 percent.

Overall, Rabin and Mills agree that it is unlikely that as many as one in 3 homebuyers last year made sight-unseen offers — especially if one focuses on closed sales, which the Redfin study does not. Still, both agents could reference their own clients that had made offers without seeing a home first, and Mills will be closing on one of those transactions soon. 

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/did-one-in-3-dc-area-homebuyers-really-buy-sight-unseen/13629

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »