Should you invest in property ‘sight unseen’?

In this day and age we can do a lot of things online, but is investing in property that you haven’t actually laid eyes on a good idea?
We live in a digital world where every conceivable piece of information is available to us at our finger-tips. So much so that the expression “Google it!” is now so common that it appears in some dictionaries. Many of us remember what life was like before Google and the World Wide Web but the younger generations take it for granted that their smartphones are the font of all knowledge!
As property investors we are spoilt with a wide choice of research tools to help with our investing. There are property portals where you can search listings by property type, location and price. There are financial sites where you can crunch numbers to calculate loan repayments and rental returns. There are websites with information about vacancy rates and previous sales history. These are all wonderful resources but can it replace actually seeing the property with your own eyes?
The armchair investor
Why wouldn’t we all just be armchair investors? We can even ‘visit’ the property on Google Maps and Google Street view. This is where I step in to spoil this fantasy. There is no replacement for actually physically visiting a property. No data or digital photos (even videos) can convey the actual vibe and feeling of a location or a property. When you invest in property you are providing a home for your tenants, so although you won’t be living there yourself you need to be convinced that the demographic renting in that area will be happy to live there. If there are hoons dragging down the street, or two doors down the front yard is like a caryard, then you’ll pass on this opportunity.
Sure, you can call real estate agents and property managers but without meeting them and forming a relationship how can you be 100 per cent sure that they are telling the truth? I’m not suggesting that they are lying to you but they might be far more forthcoming if they thought you would take the time and effort to visit and inspect the property for yourself.
What else might you find in person?
When you do all of your property research online you are limited by what is actually published online. If you meet an agent and visit a property, after chatting for a while, they may tell you that they have another property, not yet listed but which will be coming on the market in the next week or so. They may acknowledge that the property you are considering is indeed within walking distance of a primary school BUT another location, a few streets away, is also close to a primary school that is gaining a better reputation and is far more sought-after. This kind of information is not found online. There’s no replacement for local knowledge.
When listings slow down
In very buoyant markets when the number of listings is plentiful, then you can filter the relevant properties that meet your criteria online (from your armchair). But when the market is slowing down and listings are dropping off, then those relationships with agents that you’ve been cultivating will pay dividends. They will seek out property for you and tell you about it ahead of the crowd.
If time is your enemy, then why not seek to enlist the help of a buyer’s agent to decide upon location and property types that suit your investor profile. They will bring you opportunities and go and check them out for you. They will even negotiate with the vendors for you – leaving you more time to do what you do best.unseen