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We made the biggest purchase of our lives, a home, sight unseen

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I wasn’t prepared for this. The realtor turned his cell phone to his home in Midlothian, Virginia. This house was desperately wanted to buy, based solely on Redfin’s list.

I was planning the first tour available around 10am. Fortunately, my local father-in-law was in control of what he was doing. But my husband was working. I was sitting alone on a sofa in Columbia, South Carolina. My three sons were wandering around me.

“I trust you,” my husband told me before leaving that morning. “If you like it, it’s good. I see.”

This led us to decide whether to take root in this 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom property with two stairs and a backsplash of subway tiles via FaceTime. In such a turbulent market, offers need to be withdrawn immediately.

Like many other millennials, pandemics have isolated us and made us restless. Her husband Christopher and I were beyond the graduate town of Colombia. We had no real connection to the city and homeschooled boys needed more than South Carolina could offer. Richmond has provided us with a welcoming clan of Chris and a lot of educational fulfillment. Once it came up, it seemed easy to move.

As a high school English teacher, Chris got his dream job in early March, the beginning of the recruitment season from 2022 to 2023. It paid with a laugh more than his position in Colombia, but left us with a dilemma: deadline. We needed at least a four-bedroom home west of the James River, one of Richmond’s most popular real estate markets, but soon. Without it, we risked crazy scrambling, storing most of our secular property and earning a year’s rent.

The real estate agent’s phone wobbled and I felt a little nauseous. “This is the linen closet!” She screamed.

“Can you bring the phone a little closer?” I asked. “I want to see how deep it gets.” Visiting a stranger’s house always seems like a strange kind of violation. You open their cabinet, measure the size, and notice the medicine bottle. You sift the cabinet and find a half full trash can. You turn the corner and glance at their child’s chore chart. It’s weird, slightly distorted, and gives you a glimpse into another packaged life. Doing it via FaceTime seemed even more creepy.

But the house was everything we dreamed of. Finally, after making sure there were no cracks in the new roof, new HVAC, and foundation, I asked my father-in-law if the walls were bleeding. He laughed a little and assured me that he wasn’t.

I was serious. Buying without visiting the house was like a 21st century setup for a “poltergeist”. But I didn’t realize there was an entrance to hell on the garage floor, so I called her husband when I finished the tour. “That’s all,” I said. “I never thought I would live in such a house. Please make an offer.”

I never imagined that I would promise the biggest purchase in my life with an iPhone camera. But we didn’t have many options. In addition to the deadline, mortgage rates were steadily rising. March, They reached 4 percent, The highest amount since 2019. We were afraid they would rise higher and increase monthly payments, and we were right. On April 14, interest rates reached 5% for the first time since 2011.

moreover, National Real Estate Agents Association (NAR) reported in January the lowest home inventory of single-family homes in the past year.Its inventory I started to liftClaims real estate giant Zillow, but as of March, it was 52.2% below the March 2019 precovid level.

We’ve been looking for a house since January but only used it to run the same old script. I love Zillow or Redfin homes. Her husband tells me, “Please save if you like,” and a few days later, “Under contract” is displayed.

Even my father-in-law complained about it. “They list it on Thursday, have an open house on Saturday, and have a deal on Monday,” he says.

And that’s not an exaggeration.According to Alex Glazer Glasser Group of Long & Foster Realtors In Richmond, where the team handles more than 100 families a year, homes in the Richmond metropolitan area have been on the market for an average of six days since July 2020 before signing a contract.

“If the listed agent doesn’t hold the offer for a few days before the review, the home will probably sell faster,” he said in an email.

The NAR reports that pending home sales fell 1.2% overall in March, but that’s not enough to help the already squeezed market. 4% from February.

High inventory means not only fast sales, but also rising prices. Even if the market pressure has eased a bit Zillow Home prices are still soaring, as the March home list is 11.6% higher than in February. A typical US home is currently worth $ 337,560, up 20.6% from its value as of March 2021, according to a Zillow report. In fact, we were lucky. Richmond experienced one of the lowest growth rates (0.7%).

Despite its low growth rate, the clean home we chose — 100 yards from the kayak launch, many trails — was sold in 2010 at a price about $ 200,000 cheaper than the seller’s asking price. rice field. Sure, it was between the bottom of the house price, but it still slapped with some sticker shocks.

We also had to outperform other offers. Glazer said in an email that he and his partner had multiple offers on both the listed and buying sides of the homes they had traded in the last two years.

According to the real estate listing service Redfin, 65% of all home offers were written in the face of competition faced by agents.It’s actually down From 66.7% in February — and both numbers are seasonally adjusted. Services are expected to fall as mortgage prices rise to combat inflation, but they will not go away.

My virtual tour took place on Friday, shortly after the house went public. I spent the weekend rushing to bite my nails. The seller did not accept our offer. We couldn’t be so lucky. I sighed when the phone rang on Monday morning. My no was coming.

But that was yes. For other reasons, we agreed to keep the seller at home until June. They wanted their son to finish the school year. Chris’s current contract lasted until June, so that particular detail wasn’t important to us.

We agreed to buy a house that my husband had only seen in the pictures. This has always been a big decision. My mother-in-law put on the frets. “What if you don’t like it?” She asked again and again. “I’m worried that you don’t like it.”

“I liked it,” I told her. “I saw it on FaceTime. My dad liked it. It’s a nice house.”

“I’m afraid you don’t like it,” she said.

My husband had never seen my FaceTime walkthrough, so I looked at all the real estate sites listed by the seller’s agent. Some had slightly different pictures: extra shots in the dining room, different angles to the kitchen. We spent hours researching each one and wondering what furniture fits where, what the gas fire pit is built in, and exactly how we accessed the walk-up attic. .. We googled when we knew the seller’s name. In this brave new world with little privacy, they kept publishing Facebook photos. Will hit the money. Without being shy, we have become the ultimate creeper. And I thought it felt strange to see their linen closet.

My husband and I spent over an hour scrolling through their lives. Every angle of every birthday party was a clue. “Do you think the peach sofa fits perfectly on the wall?” I asked, looking through their Christmas tree. “Well, I think the buffet should hit the other wall,” he told me when we squinted at a photo of their son years ago.

I should feel guilty. I have no idea.

The day I signed the closing paper, I saw my house for the first time. Our seller was waiting nearby — I had the vague idea that they were slipping through the target — while their agents were escorting us. Some rooms were larger than expected. Some were small.

“Wow, I didn’t notice that there were a lot of bathrooms under the stairs,” my husband said. “You would hit your head against the ceiling.”

He measured the dimensions. He saw the nausea of ​​advertising in South Carolina, confused furniture and photos, decided how to fit that huge Victorian sofa inside, and whether they were real French doors or fake doors. I shot the walkthrough while thinking about it.

The seller gave us an hour. Their agent, an old family friend, sought speed. “Oh, they’re nearby,” she said, that they were bored and waiting nearby after running the target, along with a kid and a little dog (we saw that water bowl). Implied.

“Tell me to lock down my Facebook account,” I told her.

Glazer said in an email that it’s not common to buy invisible sights other than virtual tours. “But it’s happening more since the pandemic began.”

I was fortunate to spend that precious time. Until we arrive in June, we will not look inside the house again with three children, three dogs, and everything we own. We’re not stalking Facebook, but we’re still sifting photos.

But the details bother me. How many windows are there in the youngest room? Do I need to put furniture in that corner? Is the front wall worth decorating? Do they bring everything from Alexa?

Home buying always looks unrealistic, especially if it’s all over the country. But buying an invisible sight added another layer of eerieness. “Until it happens, I don’t think it’s happening,” I told her husband, “no matter what document I signed.”

Our house is beautiful. I’m lucky. My mother-in-law’s fretting was meaningless: we worship it.

Unless the wall bleeds.

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