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Buying property ‘blind’ likelier than picking a pet

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We are more likely to purchase a property sight-unseen than we are to choose a rental or a pet, car or boat, according to a new survey of more than 1000 Australians.

Acording to a media release this week, 11% of Aussies would be willing to purchase a property for occupation or investment without viewing it in person, whereas just 10% would do the same for a vehicle, and 8% for a pet. 

The survey of 1,036 Australians was conducted for Canstar, Australia’s biggest financial comparison site*. The results also found that only 8% of Australians would be willing to commit to a rental property without inspecting it in person, while just 5% would do the same for a boat. 

Effie Zahos, Canstar’s Editor-at-Large says, “One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic has been our rapid digital adoption. Australians are working, socialising and shopping online more than ever before, and this has resulted in some interesting buying trends, especially within the property market.”

“Since the start of the pandemic, surging house prices in capital cities have sparked a regional property boom, with buyers abandoning the big smoke in favour of affordable housing and less restrictions. But regional prices are now creeping up, fuelling a growing sense of urgency among buyers desperate to crack the market. 

“With nearly half the population now in lockdown, impacted buyers are unable to travel interstate or even outside their local government area to inspect a home. This leaves them with little choice but to go online, and some real estate agents have reported an increase in buyers competing for property through virtual auctions. 

“If you are considering buying a home sight unseen, or even committing to a rental, it’s imperative to do your research beforehand. A property is a huge financial commitment, regardless of whether you intend to live in it yourself or use it for investment purposes. 

“Interestingly, Australians are slightly cagier about buying a pet sight unseen. The potential for behavioural issues, underlying health problems or even being scammed are likely the biggest underlying factors here.”

The research also found that just 39% of Australians would be willing to purchase groceries online as opposed to in-person, while 37% would do the same for clothing. Just over a third (35%) said they wouldn’t be willing to purchase anything without seeing it in person first.

“When it comes to buying sight unseen, the real trick – apart from extensive research – is to listen to your gut instinct. If you’re getting a bad feeling about something, then you’re probably spot on. Be it a property or a pet, don’t let the notion of ‘love at first sight’ come back to bite you,” Zahos says. 

Which of the following would you be willing to purchase or commit to sight unseen
(i.e only viewing it online without inspecting it in person)*?

Buying groceries 39%
Buying clothing 37%
Buying furniture or whitegoods 24%
Buying property 11%
Buying a vehicle 10%
Choosing a pet 8%
Renting a property 8%
Buying a boat 5%
Other 1%
None, I would not purchase anything without having seen it in person 35%
Source: www.canstar.com.au, August 2021. Survey of 1,039 Australians aged 18+.
Commissioned by Canstar and conducted online via Qualtrics in August 2021.
*Responses are “tick all that apply”


Five things to consider before buying a property sight unseen: 

  • Make the most of virtual tools. We’re well and truly living in the digital age, so use this to your advantage. If you’re interested in a property, you can view the home and its surroundings via Google Street View. Suburb profiles from reputable sources can provide a good indication of buying trends and demographics in the area. Virtual inspections, appointment based video tours and floor plans are king. 
  • Use a buyers’ agent. They can scope out a property on your behalf, or recommend other properties in the area based on your preferences. They can even negotiate or bid at auction on your behalf, but bear in mind that they can be expensive, which can push up your buying costs. 
  • Get a second opinion. If you have friends or relatives living in the area, ask them to view the property for you as well. They may not necessarily have the same professional knowledge as a buyers’ agent, but they will be more likely to give you their honest opinion – good or bad.
  • Don’t skimp on building or pest inspections.  If you’re buying sight unseen, it’s even more important to do your due diligence – the more boots you can get on the ground beforehand the better. A building inspection will check for things like structural defects, while a pest inspection will look for evidence of termites or pre-existing pest damage. This can be the difference between buying your dream home and buying into a nightmare. 
  • Be realistic. At the end of the day, buying a property without viewing it in person is always a risk, regardless of how much research you’ve done behind the scenes. Given it’s likely to be one of the most expensive purchases in your life you want to be sure you’ve ticked off every possible checklist before jumping in. Even then there’s something to be said about seeing for yourself where the property sits. 

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