Friday, October 22, 2010

Bought a House Online: Part One

I can hear you now.  They bought a house online?  Are they crazy or what?  (I suppose the crazy part IS debatable....)

Under most circumstances, I wouldn't consider buying a house sight unseen.  However being able to do so made life so much easier.  First off, my mother and I are the primary caretakers of my 87 and 88 year old grandparents.  They are doing well, but we would never leave them alone for the time it would take for us to go the 1200 miles to Kansas and house shop.  And, neither one of us wanted to take on the responsibility of house shopping alone.  We'd resigned ourselves to renting and then house shopping after we were there--a process that would require finding the right rental property, then the right house, and moving twice.  Moving once is no fun, but twice?

At the same time we were mulling over how to get this complicated move done, we were looking at houses online.  We told ourselves we just needed to get a feel for what was available so we could hit the ground running after we arrived. Then we came across a house that would be perfect for the four of us.  It was nice to know something like we wanted was available.  After that we began to worry that it would be snatched up before we got there.  Hmmmm.

So the conversations went something like this:

"It would be so much easier to move only once...."

"Yes, but wouldn't it be dumb to buy a house without seeing it in the flesh?"

And we'd agree that it was, and then try to ignore that beautiful house and the 30 pictures of it on the real estate agent's website.

However, it wasn't long before we asked ourselves what we would need to know in order to feel comfortable purchasing a house sight unseen--except through cyberspace.  Here's what we decided:

1.  We'd need to know about the neighborhood.  Fortunately, we weren't totally disadvantaged.  Newton is a town of only 20,000 people.  My mom and I were somewhat familiar having passed through Newton on our way to somewhere else, but my grandparents had been there many times, and in fact they had friends who lived there.  Upon further investigation we discovered that their friends lived only 3 blocks from the house we were considering.  Okay, we had confirmation that the house was in a nice neighborhood.

2.  Is the house as pretty in person as it is the pictures?  Maybe the photographer is only showing the best stuff?  I doubted it because 30 pictures is a lot, and it would seem unlikely that with that many photos they could be hiding much.  Still....  So we asked one of those trusted family members we're moving 1200 miles to be near if she would go look.  Bless her, she had no problem at all doing that.  We got a wonderful report back.  The house was beautiful and she wouldn't hesitate to buy it.

3.  So is the beauty only skin deep?  We hired a home inspector to check out the things that aren't cosmetic.  He did indeed find a wiring problem in the basement, and an issue with the sprinkler system.  We brought these to the sellers' attention and those issues were fixed.

Those were the three major questions, and for two out of the three, we relied on friends and family to determine the answers.  Without the help of trusted friends and family, this wouldn't have happened. It was a perfect set of circumstances that made this doable.

Here's where we are~the closing was done as of today.  We are now the new owners of a house in which we know what a lot of the rooms look like due to the pictures, and we know the size of the rooms, but don't have a clear picture of the layout of the house.   So while I feel comfortable that the house is in good shape, and will suit our needs, there's still some mystery about the place.  Needless to say, there is a sense of adventure about the day we roll up in front of our new house.

I'll do "Bought a House Online: Part Two" after we get there.  Then we'll find out if there is anything else we should have considered.


  1. Michelle,

    I just now have a few minutes to catch up on blog-reading. I have enjoying your moving posts. Wow, you are brave buying a house online, but I think the friends in the same neighborhood would calm a lot of fears.

    It will be like opening a Christmas present when you finally see the house in person. And it will probably the largest Christmas present, EVER! :)

  2. Wow! That is really a leap of faith, but at the same time, I makes a lot of sense. You've had a lot of help from trusted people, so it sounds like everything will work out well. Good luck!

    xo -El

  3. lucky you had friends in the neighborhood I'm sure that made it a lot easier for you. Good luck and I hope it all works out really well for you all.

  4. I'm so glad things came together for your buying this house. It looks beautiful, and I'm sure you will be very glad when the move is behind you and you can enjoy your new home!

  5. Blimey, thats something I haven't heard before but given your circumstances it makes sense. To be honest, even when we go and see a house how long do we really spend? Maybe 10 minutes and a second visit. Hope you are very happy there.

  6. Wow, you are brave, at the beginning of your post i was kind of agreeing with your comment - are they crazy!!!! However after reading through I think it makes a lot of sense. The fact that you know the area, and you have someone you can trust look at it for you, should allay most fears. Congratulations, and isn't it fabulous that you can just move straight in when you get there. Good luck with the move.

  7. You really have a lot of faith in other people - what an honour to be trusted by you!!!
    I am getting so exited about this move - and I am not the one moving. I know I don't have to pack and the stress with the cat and so on, but I still feel like part of your family that is moving. The best of luck for the last stretch, and then the new house!!!

  8. It seems kind of like having a baby - you know what you're getting, but not exactly what it will be like! I know you are excited to get there, and see where you will be calling home.... Congratulations on making it through closing! We'll be waiting anxiously to see Part 2!!

  9. Every time we move (which has happened a few times due to my husband's job) we come to a new place and are told "that's your house". It's always an adventure to walk into a place knowing it's yours, but having never seen it (not even pictures). I've decided embracing the adventure is the only way to go. If I didn't do that, I'd be all stressed out. I'm glad you found a place and it's good you have family and friends who can check things out for you.

  10. Thought I should add a bit more info that I didn't think to put in the original post.

    When we first began toying with this idea, I googled to see if anyone else had ever done this. Fortunately, we weren't the first. Some people had done it and were very pleased; others not so pleased. So I tried to learn what the pleased ones had done as compared to the not so pleased ones. I remember that one of the not so pleased ones had relied entirely on her real estate agent's judgment. Well duh!

  11. I think you win the badge of bravery! But, having a trusted friend's eyes truly is a big difference, and too, you had it inspected. Good work! I hope it is a perfect fit for you all! It is pretty in the picture, too!

  12. It looks beautiful Michelle!

    My sister did this before she moved here. Saw a picture on the internet and sent me to have look. She bought it- sight unseen as well. So I didnt think you were crazy.

    I hope you'll be so happy in your new home. Looks like the adventure has started!

  13. Wow, you are a brave woman. I love to look at houses on-line and have been known to spend a few hours being nosey! I am not sure if I have enough guts to acutally buy one sight unseen! I know you will be happy there because it sounds like you already have friends there!

  14. You just ratcheted up a notch in the belt of awesome. That's MAGNIFICENT stress-free from this point forward knowing the difficult stuff is out of the way? I'm so happy for you!

  15. I think the outside of a house tells a lot about the inside. It must have been scary but having friends to check it out sure helped. It does look nice from the outside. Smart to have it inspected.

  16. Congratulations - I'm sure your grandparents are beyond grateful that you're moving to take care of them. I'm happy you found a house that suits all of your needs and is beautiful, too.

    Have a safe trip - can't wait for the update.

  17. Hi Michelle, I haven't read many blogs lately due to a terrible slow internet connection, which seems better over the last days. CONGRATS on your new house! It looks beautiful there! Wonderful your grandparents have friends in town who was able to inspect the house for you. I'm so excited for you and wishing you all the very best!


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