That One Time We Bought a House Without Seeing It

As our year in Seattle is coming to a close, we’ve officially got our sights set on … Chicago! It was always our plan to return to the midwest after 12 months out here, and in less than four weeks, we will be packing up and moving into our new home. A home we bought, sight unseen (well, not totally unseen, we took a Facetime tour), and that we have since only visited for about 20 minutes.

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It sounds pretty crazy, but not that much crazier than selling a home in Boston less than a year after we bought it and moving 3,000 miles away the same year we had a baby, right? …

The one photo I took of our new place when we visited for 20 mins (after we bought it)
The one photo I took of our new place when we visited for 20 mins (after we bought it)

Yea, I realize that’s not a good argument. But, our purchase has, thus far, worked out, and I totally think it’s possible to buy a house you’ll love without seeing it. It just takes some research, trust, and liquid courage.  Plus, in competitive real estate markets, how much time do you really get to spend looking at a house anyway? Twenty minutes in an open house before best and final offers are due?

So here’s how we went about this whole thing and why we felt comfortable doing it.

For one, we were buying in a city we’d already lived in for three years and knew well. It is super important if you’re ever considering a move sight-unseen to know the area you’re moving into. Neighborhood is SO crucial, at least to us, so we made sure to narrow down our search to only our favorite areas: places that were safe, had great restaurants, easy access to grocery stores, transportation, and parks, etc. Nothing “up and coming” or that we hadn’t spent a lot of  time in.

We also trusted our realtor, who happened to be my mother-in-law. She’s very discerning when it comes to real estate, and told us immediately when she didn’t like a place or found negative aspects of a home … which made us trust when she said a place felt nice and well-maintained. If your mother-in-law isn’t a realtor, it’s probably a good idea to find someone through a referral, or at the very least, through lots of Yelp research.

Lastly, we knew our budget and realistically, what we could get for it. In a city like Chicago, your budget is only going to go so far before  you have to start making sacrifices in terms of size, location, bedrooms, etc. After months of looking online, we knew our budget would get us a three-bed, two-or-three bath home in our favorite neighborhood. However, we wanted a duplex condo with a yard, we’d have to sacrifice a bit of style and go for something more dated. If we sacrificed square footage and outdoor space, we could get something relatively turn-key and new. We made a list of priorities so that we only looked at homes that ticked the boxes that were really important to us. And once we narrowed that list down, there weren’t a ton of homes for us to choose from in our ideal location. So at that point, it came down to finding one we could get for the price we wanted.

We sent our trusty realtor out for a weekend of FaceTime tours and were lucky enough to find a place that she liked, we thought looked great via virtual reality, and that had a previous offer fall through (read: they were ready to negotiate). It was kind of scary, but we put an offer in and it was accepted.

About a month later, we finally had a chance to go an see the place, and luckily, we loved  it! We close this week.