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Buy a house remotely in the Kootenays with professionals by your side

A one-storey tan and brown house with an attached garage has a well-maintained lawn and gardens with shrubs, trees and rocks.

Buying a home remotely is now common with the adoption of easy-to-use real estate technology. Photo courtesy Sandy Smith

Realtor® Sandy Smith explains how to buy a house long distance with confidence

by Virginia Rasch

Buying a house sight unseen used to be rare but now it’s commonplace.

“I would say once in the last 21 years did I ever sell a house sight unseen, and now it has become normal,” said Sandy Smith, a seasoned Realtor® with over 20 years of experience in the real estate market in the Cranbrook, B.C. area.

“With COVID-19, people are realizing how important lifestyle is,” said Sandy. “Folks have discovered they can work from a home office so they can choose where they want to live.” And Sandy’s sales in the past year and a half have reflected that fact.

As the founder of Sandy Smith Personal Real Estate Corporation, she’s had a busy year and a half with the high demand for properties in the area. Her daughter, Justine MacDonald, is a licensed Realtor® and a partner in the well-known and very successful Cranbrook real estate business.

There are several reasons people buy homes virtually. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly increased the demand for remote buying. With the pandemic’s health and travel restrictions, people weren’t able to get out and look at houses in person.

But Sandy said there are many other reasons for buying real estate long distance.

“If properties are staying on the market no more than 24 or 48 hours in this hot market, how is someone going to get here from the Lower Mainland or the Okanagan to have an opportunity?” Sandy explained.

Some buyers are looking for a second home or a vacation home. They typically live in another city, province or country, which makes it more difficult to be there in person for every step of the purchase.

Sandy has also seen the demand for remote buying from parents wanting to buy a house for their child going to school, such as College of the Rockies in Cranbrook.

Other reasons for remote buying include people wanting investment property or those with last-minute job relocations.

At first blush, remote buying might seem intimidating. But armed with the right team of professionals and the right tools, it can be done with ease—which leads to the next topic of technology.

Technology tools make it easy to buy a house long distance

New technology has been a game changer in the real estate world, and that’s especially true for remote buying. Remote buying is easier today than ever before because of helpful technology like video tours, electronic signatures and listing portals.

Sandy specifically cited four examples of technology that she and Justine use to make purchasing real estate easier for buyers—no matter where they are.

Take a 3D virtual tour of the property

Matterport is a three-dimensional camera system that creates a 3D virtual tour. The results are so realistic that out-of-town buyers feel they are actually walking through a property.

Matterport's virtual tours provide an immersive experience that is not possible with photos or 360 tours. And potential buyers can do their own walkthrough from anywhere at any time.

“With Matterport, we go and scan a property, and our camera can do floor plans from the scans and people can actually click through on little circles on the floor and walk through the house,” said Justine. “There really aren’t any hidden nooks and crannies anymore with this program.”

Viewers can explore the house from a variety of viewpoints, use an accurate measuring tool and get a feel for the space without having to travel. “Clients love it,” said Sandy.

“We’ve even had a buyer buy a house in the $900,000 range without even seeing it because they were so confident with the Matterport walk-through video that they were even measuring for their furniture before they moved in,” said Justine.

Sign up to get an alert for hot new real estate listings in the Kootenays

The Kootenay Association of Realtors uses another tech tool called Xposure. This fully mobile listing portal is especially useful for remote buyers in a hot market as it can be used for notifications and alerts as soon as listings are available.

The Sandy Smith Personal Real Estate Corporation uses Xposure for reverse prospecting so that potential home buyers are automatically notified of specific MLS listings in the Kootenays.

“We do reverse prospecting where if we have a buyer that says, for example, we’re looking for houses between $300,000 to $400,000, we set them up and as soon as a property hits the Kootenay MLS Xposure, that listing will automatically get sent to that prospective buyer,” said Sandy.

Real estate paperwork is a breeze with digital documents

Both Authentisign and Docusign are extremely helpful tools for remote real estate sales. These digital transaction platforms allow companies to go fully digital with quick, simple and secure eSignatures.

Real estate transactions involve many extremely important documents. These platforms let users send, sign and manage legal documents securely in the cloud. For example, DocuSign eSignature automatically generates and stores a complete, time-stamped history of every send, view, print, sign or decline action.

Five professionals to rely on when buying a house long distance

The secret to successfully buying a home remotely is to rely on the expertise of professionals—real estate agents, contractors, home inspectors, lawyers and appraisers.

In her business, Sandy has helped many clients with remote purchases. “They’ve really utilized the expertise of the professionals who are helping them from start to finish,” she said.

Here are the five key professionals to hire when buying a property remotely:

1. Home inspector: On top of the list of professionals needed are home inspectors who will report on a home condition, which includes identifying major and minor issues with a home, potential future problems and any safety concerns.

“We always strongly encourage people to get a home inspection,” said Sandy. “Most remote buyers depend on the home inspection.”

2. Contractor: Contractors are also important professionals that remote buyers look to for assistance. Sandy said some clients often want contractors to look at their potential purchases for two reasons: to check out a potential problem or to estimate the costs of renovations so those can be added to the mortgage from the start.

“We’ve even met contractors at a house for them to look at it for an out-of-town buyer,” Sandy said. “If we go look at a house and there are some questions on the foundation, we’re not home inspectors or foundation experts. But if we see a little red flag, we then arrange for contractors to go into the house and check that out for the potential buyer.”

3. Realtor®: Hiring a seasoned and trustworthy Realtor® is essential when buying a property remotely. Remote buyers need a real estate agent well versed in remote buying and very familiar with the city and the local housing market. The Realtor® needs to be tech-savvy and must have a remote system in place, using digital tools including 3D tours and online and video conferencing platforms for additional support and communication.

Sandy Smith Real Estate Corporation uses many diverse remote systems (listed above). But Sandy and Justine go a step farther by taking a client along on a real-time visit or video chat. “If somebody’s interested in a house, we’ve personally gone to the home,” Sandy said. “We FaceTimed them and did a thorough walk-through of the neighbourhood and a thorough walk-through of the home where we can actually open closets, open drawers, open crawl spaces. These are things that these 3D programs can’t do.”

Every detail matters to a sale. Sandy said she and Justine will even measure closets for remote clients.

“They’re buying without personally seeing the house but they are getting all the information on it,” Sandy said.

4. Lawyer: A real estate attorney is needed to represent a buyer at closing. The lawyer will review all paperwork in advance and advise on any problems or omissions with the documentation. Such lawyers need to be adept at programs such as Authentisign and Docusign, which are needed to close the real estate deal from a distance.

5. Property appraiser: Appraisers are professionals that have been trained to assess the true value of the property. As a buyer, a key part of getting a mortgage is having an appraisal performed to confirm the sales price for the lender. Neither the buyer nor the buyer’s agent need to be present for the appraisal, so this step is easy to accomplish remotely.

In many ways, buying a house long distance is the same as purchasing a home in person, but a buyer will require more support if the purchase is done remotely. The experience can be smooth and seamless with these professionals on board.

View affordable British Columbia real estate opportunities

A canoer and people on floats enjoy a calm lake with mountains in the distance and a blue sky.

Southeastern British Columbia abounds in lakes for year-round recreation—from canoeing, kayaking and fishing to ice skating and ice sailing. Kerry Shellborn photo

Why Cranbrook and Kimberley are great places to live in southeastern B.C.

The illustrious Kootenays are tucked among the abundant lakes, rivers, forests and mountains of southeastern B.C. Hence, Rocky Mountain living in the Cranbrook and Kimberley area is affordable and full of amenities.

The biggest draw of the region is the fabulous outdoor lifestyle and outstanding scenery. The area includes a huge diversity of lakes, parks and trails for four-season recreation.

Cranbrook consistently appears on lists of the best places to live or to retire in Canada. Kimberley is off the beaten track and offers small-town charm, while affording big city amenities 25 minutes away in Cranbrook. One of its main attractions is the Kimberley Alpine Resort.

There’s another great reason to buy a home in the Kootenays—there’s no speculation tax here.

Stone-and-wood pillars support a front porch of a one-storey house with an attached two-bay garage.

Sandy and Justine conduct real-time walk-throughs of homes and neighbourhoods for their clients interested in buying a house virtually. Photo courtesy Sandy Smith

Long-distance house hunting with the help of an experienced Cranbrook, B.C. Realtor®

Sandy and Justine have helped many homebuyers buy remotely over the past year-and-a-half during this hot real estate market. Who are these buyers scooping up real estate in the Cranbrook area? Sandy said approximately 70 per cent of the buyers are not from the region, that is, the East Kootenay. Most people are buying their primary residence but a good number are secondary homebuyers. They also include recreational property buyers, investors, and new retirees or soon-to-be retirees.

Because of the growth of the College of the Rockies and the dearth of rental properties, Sandy is also helping parents—including international ones—who want to buy houses for their children to use while they are in college.

Sandy has listed and sold over 2,000 properties in the Cranbrook and surrounding areas. Her dedication and professionalism have put her in the top 1% of real estate agents with Royal LePage in Canada.

“My goal is for my clients to feel comfortable and confident with me as their Realtor,®” said Sandy.

Buying a house is stressful enough. Buying a home remotely compounds the stress. By performing your own due diligence and working with an experienced real estate professional, you can reduce the stress and buy with confidence.

The mother-and-daughter team of Sandy Smith and Justine MacDonald are smiling and sitting on the front porch of a house.

Sandy Smith (L) and Justine MacDonald are a mother-and-daughter team of high-energy Realtors® in Cranbrook, B.C.Photo courtesy Sandy Smith

Contact Sandy Smith and Justine MacDonald