Buying a House without Seeing It

I was going to save this for my monthly note, but felt like writing today. I know I’ve written a variation of this story, and think I talked about it on a podcast, but here we are. I suspect many of my clients have heard this story.

Buying a house without seeing it in person — what’s it like?

Many years ago, clients came to the Charlottesville area from overseas and we spent an intensive week together looking in one part of the county for their perfect home. Nothing fit, and they left.

A week later, they contacted me about a house that intrigued them.

Me: Did you go to that part of the county without me when you were here?

Them: Nope.

Me: Got it.

Back then I had a small handheld video camera. I can’t remember the brand, but I remember that Cisco bought the company and then the cameras basically disappeared as iPhones became ubiquitous. Now, my iPhone films in 4K, and it’s amazing.

So I drove to the house, got a sense of its location, and then traced my path back about four miles.

I filmed from three miles out to the house, got out, walked around the house, down the forested lot so we could see the water, and I described everything I saw, heard, smelled.

And then inside — the rooms, under the counters, behind doors — everywhere.

They made the offer, got the contract, and then we did the same thing for the home inspection.

They flew in , we went to the attorney’s office, they signed the docs, and then we went to the house.

I was *terrified.*

They loved it.

One of my clients told me the only thing I didn’t capture on film was the smell.

When I’m doing these videos for buyer clients, it’s not just a video, it’s a showing.

A few things I look/listen for:

  • Smells – food, dogs, smoke (this should be disclosed in the MLS by listing agents!), moisture/mold/mildew.
  • Where is the HVAC (outside the primary bedroom? Maybe too loud for some)
  • Under sinks (leaks?)
  • View *out* the windows — the view when you’re doing dishes or going to the bathroom often matters more than what the house looks like from the back.
  • Road noise? (best after clients and I have calibrated)
  • Neighbors 
  • And a lot more


I try to get better every time I do a video, whether that’s going more slowly, having the right gimbal, pausing when entering rooms, and answering my clients’ specific questions. I do videos for buyer clients, and seller clients — the latter is still a showing video for buyers agents’ clients who cannot get to town and I want them to, but not as detailed or as critical (naturally) as the videos I do for buyer clients.

Listing photos are there to get your attention. My professional insight, calibrated with clients’ needs and wants, can often encourage clients to hop on a plane or drive 6 hours, but more often than not, the video answers their question,”Do I need to see this house today?” — More often than not, that answer is, “no.”

But often enough, the answer is “yes,” or “we’ll make the offer.”


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