We've been buying stuff online for more than a decade. The latest sneakers? Click, click, done. On our doorstep in three days. Toilet paper and coffee? Add to my Amazon cart today and have them in my house tomorrow.
Now add real estate to that list. By December 2020, 63% of homebuyers made an offer on a house without seeing it in person, according to Redfin.
Covid certainly exacerbated this trend, but there are other reasons why buying a home sight unseen is not going away. Colorado is a hot market -- whether it's Denver or Colorado Springs or elsewhere in the state. Maybe you live out of state and can't get away on a dime to see homes and make offers. Maybe you're a real estate investor interested in Colorado and are fine buying remotely. Or maybe you're buying a home for an adult child.
Whatever the reason, here are some things you need to know about buying a home remotely in Colorado.
WORK WITH A GOOD AGENT.
A good Colorado real estate agent is always important to your transaction but if you're buying from out of state, you will rely even more on your Realtor to be your eyes and ears and a trustworthy partner.
A good real estate is vital to helping you:
Navigate the Colorado real estate market. Being 10 minutes away from downtown Colorado Springs or downtown Denver can mean very different things depending on which direction you drive. A local agent who knows the neighborhoods is vital to helping you get into the right area in what is a new market for you.
Understand the Colorado home buying process. The way you buy a home in Colorado is different from Texas or New York. A good Colorado Realtor will help you understand the process. (See below.)
How do you decide which agent to work with in Colorado? Get them on the phone and talk to them. (Wanna reach out to us, for instance? Contact us here.) A few criteria to consider when deciding on a real estate:
Communication. There are two ways to rate an agent's communication skills -- responsiveness and clarity. Did they return your initial email quickly? Do they call you back promptly? And when they do talk to you, do they clearly articulate how the process will work and what value they bring to your search.
Experience. A bad agent will lose you money and maybe lose you a house in this competitive market. The Colorado Springs real estate market is shifting constantly. An agent with years of experience doing tens of deals every year will know how to navigate the home search and the transaction to best serve your needs.
A sense of calm and maybe even fun. You should work with an agent that you enjoy. You're going to be talking to them a lot. They need to be pleasant and make your life easier. (I didn't say easy. Real estate is tough in Colorado, but your agent should shoulder a lot of the stress.)
DEMAND GOOD VIDEO
You might never see the city or the neighborhood in which you're buying. And photos are often deceiving. (Good HD photos can make a meh home sparkle.) So good video is a must, and that means more than shooting the four walls of the home itself.
Here's what you should ask your agent to shoot in their video.
Grab video of the drive in and the surrounding area. I want to see a few minutes of the roads you're taking to get to the house. Are you close to major arteries or are you deep off the main drag? Are there restaurants nearby and shopping? Knowing that you're close to the action is not the same as seeing, so ask your agent to take video of the drive in.
Walk up and down the street to see the neighbors. Are they taking good care of their lawns and exteriors? Sure the house you're considering looks immaculate, but if the neighbor two houses down has a collection of seven rusted cars in the yard, that tells a different story.
Once inside, shoot video from two different angles of each room. First when you enter the room and then a far corner. And ask them to pan slowly.
Show me the details. Far enough away, every home can look nice. But what do the baseboards look like up close? How are the carpets or wood floors? Are the cabinets actually new? Or just painted white? Same with countertops. The details matter, so make sure your agent shows you that stuff.
Want to see what we're talking about. Here's some video we shot for clients buying remotely in Colorado.
UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS
The home-buying process varies state to state. So before you get buy a Colorado home remotely, talk with your agent about how the process will go.
A few high-level things to know about the home-buying process in Denver.
Typically, it's 30 days between signing an offer and closing and taking possession of the property.
You often have 7-10 days to do an inspection. And you can pull out for any reason during that inspection period and get a full refund of your earnest money, or deposit. (This is different from, say, Texas where you have to pay extra up front for the option of terminating the contract and getting your earnest money back.)
You should also know that the agent has full power to conduct the entire home-buying process. This differs from places like New York where an attorney has to be involved.
If you're closing remotely -- not just searching remotely -- notify your agent and lender ASAP as it can affect the timeline by a day or two.
You should also make your lender aware that you're buying remotely and make sure they know about your job situation.
KNOW THE REGULATIONS AND TAXES
Regulations and property taxes can be very different state to state (and city to city), so if you're shopping for a new house in Colorado from out-of-state, you should check with your agent about the specifics of the area in which you're buying.
Are you planning to buy a short-term rental or Airbnb investment property? Make sure you know the laws in that municipality. Most Colorado cities aren't friendly to non-owner occupied STRs. (See more about Airbnb laws in Colorado here.)
Do you want to build an ADU or carriage house out back of the home you buy? This is easier to do in places like Austin, Texas, but ADU regulations are different in Denver and Colorado Springs.
If you're house-hacking, cities' unrelated-adults occupancy limit will vary.
You might also want to know -- and this is a big positive -- that property taxes are much lower in Colorado than many hot areas of the country like Boston, New York, Los Angeles, or Austin.
These and other rules are important to consider when you're buying real estate remotely.
CAN YOU CLOSE REMOTELY?
Yes, with e-signature capabilities now, you can even close on a home without being present. In Colorado, many real estate contracts -- like the initial offer or the inspection objection -- filter through a program called CTM e-Contracts.
If you're buying with cash, then you can sign documents from your home. Most Colorado title companies will conduct closings with DocuSign. If you're financing your purchase with a loan, the title company will schedule a notary to meet you. (Financing requires "wet" signatures on the mortgage documents.)
If you plan to close remotely on your new Colorado home, and you're using financing, be aware that it may add a day or two to the normal timeline as the title company will have to mail documents out to you and then have the notary overnight ship them back.
More and more of daily life is conducted online and through video. A real estate search for your next home or investment property might not be ready to go fully online, but more and more people do the full real estate transaction that way.