Realtor diaries: Sight-unseen purchases take off in Orlando housing market

Oct 27, 2021 | ARMEL NEWS

By   –  OBJ Staff Writer & Orlando Inno Reporter, Orlando Business Journal

This is another entry in Orlando Business Journal‘s “Realtor Diaries” series, which follows three local Realtors during the course of six weeks. These stories will appear together in the special report in a future OBJ print edition.


A sight-unseen home purchase typically means the buyer has not visited the property, but some Orlando residential deals get started before even the real estate agent sees the home. 

For example, Armel Real Estate Inc. broker and owner Deanna Armel put in an offer on a Dr. Phillips home the week of Oct. 10 — before seeing the property. Making a strong offer as soon as possible is a tactic Armel said can be effective with so many Central Florida homes drawing multiple bids. “When our offer is in, we have a chance.” 

This is an example of the rise of sight-unseen offers and purchases in metro Orlando’s housing market, driven by a frenzied seller’s market and a high number of purchases by out-of-town buyers. In fact, Lake Nona-based Premier Sotheby’s International Realty agent Peter Luu said sight-unseen buyers now make up roughly 35% of his deals, which he called “unprecedented.” 


Nationwide, sight-unseen deals are at record highs as people relocate to new markets and technology makes it easier to tour homes virtually. In fact, 63% of people who bought a home in 2020 made an offer on a property they had not seen in person, according to a report from online brokerage Redfin Corp. That was a big jump from 32% in 2019. 


If a property shows promise in its listing photos, it’s not even necessary for the Realtor to see it before making an offer, Armel said. It’s possible to retract the offer if the clients arrive at the home and don’t like it, but it creates a stronger position to show up with an offer already made, she said. “You’re not pressured to get there and get the offer in. It has worked many, many times.”

Of course, it’s not just buyers doing residential deals from afar. In early October, Luu took a listing with a seller who no longer lives in Orlando and who Luu never has met. That’s a phenomenon becoming more common as well, he said. “This year, I’ll have 20 sellers I won’t meet.” 


While Central Florida home sales declined in September for the third straight month, a seller’s market persists. There were 3,879 local home sales last month, down 5% from 3,999 sales in August, according to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. Meanwhile, the median home price declined for the first time since September 2020, sitting at $318,000.


Fewer sales means the region’s home inventory ticked up for the fifth consecutive month. The 3,667 homes on the market last month was a 38% bump up from April, the low point of the year. Still, it’s clear there’s not enough homes for sale in the Orlando area: There was less than a month’s supply of homes on the market in September, far less than the six months of supply that indicates a balanced housing market. 



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