You Can Buy or Sell a Home Online Without Meeting in Person, But Do You Want To?

You Can Buy or Sell a Home Online Without Meeting in Person, But Do You Want To?

sacramento short sale agentPeople are astonished to hear that I can conduct entire real estate transactions -- most of them Sacramento short sales -- without ever meeting the parties involved. It's not unusual to communicate solely via email, text, websites or fax. I'm connected almost 24/7 through a variety of communication tools. While this may reduce the number of shoes I need to buy and cut down on my dry cleaning bills, it's still kinda weird. I like to shake hands. If appropriate, I hug.

But I'll tell you who I am not hugging. Google. I'm speaking as a client of Google, not the other way around. I signed up for a spam filtering service through Google about a year ago. It didn't work correctly. For whatever reason. I tried for weeks to get through to support at Google without success. Finally, in my frustration, I canceled my account -- just wiped it out.

Then, in October, I received a "no reply" email warning me that Google was about to charge my VISA $12. I tried to sign in to my account, but of course, it no longer exists. In November, I received another "no reply" email. I went in the back door and submitted a work order, filling in the fields for my name, address, email with a sentence asking for help. Received instead a standard work order template and no phone call. I can't email Google; I can't send a letter to Google, and I can't stop the billing.

I received my VISA statement yesterday reflecting that $12 charge. My card expires next summer. Is it really worth the hassle over $12? I thought about this long and hard because it's very difficult to call the bank that has issued my VISA. There is really no human contact unless you're willing to pay the price.

Paying the price means calling the bank, punching in my credit card number, listening to menu options, choosing the correct options, being forced to listen to a commercial for my bank, waiting on hold, and then being put through to a person who promptly disconnects me. So, I call back and go through the whole rigmarole again. If I am not disconnected, I then have the opportunity to ask to be transferred from India to a supervisor in the United States. Then, of course, after repeating all of the information I had previously submitted, she disconnects me.

By the third time, the voice prompter can no longer understand what I am saying. Do you want to make a payment? No, help, help, help. Do you want to hear your options again? Help, help, help. Do you want to buy a Ferrari? Help, help, help. I'm sorry, goodbye.

I speak English. I enunciate. I was raised in Minnesota, the state where aspiring television newscasters go to learn diction, for crying out loud.

In the interest of efficiency and progress, we've lost a lot of human contact in business. It's not pleasant to be a consumer. And it's only going to get worse as we continue to move to virtual business. We conduct webinars as a natural course of business and almost anything you need you can find online. There is no reason to meet people face-to-face anymore. Not even to sell real estate. You used to be able to walk into a store, speak with a sales rep about a product, touch and feel the product, maybe even test drive it. Not so anymore. In fact, you're lucky if the store even carries the product in stock.

I'm as guilty as anybody else. I'm showing property this weekend, and I'm not leaving the house. I have other commitments, so I am paying an associate to drive around my buyers and show them homes. They most likely will buy a Sacramento short sale. They need me for my analytical, investigative and negotiation skills -- they are relying on my 30-some years in the real estate business and extensive short sale background. I might not even see them at closing. Sending a mobile notary to sign docs is more convenient for a lot of people.

Agents might believe that the days of buying a home online will never happen, but I disagree. It's sad, and it's unfortunate. I still prefer human contact. But I do what the clients want. I let my clients decide. If they want a virtual relationship, I'll give it to them.

Photo: Big Stock Photo

elizabeth weintraub



Weintraub and Wallace Realtors



Elizabeth Weintraub reviews




Elizabeth Weintraub is co-partner of Weintraub & Wallace Team of Top Producing Realtors, an author, home buying expert at The Balance, a Land Park resident, and a veteran real estate agent who specializes in older, classic homes in Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown, Carmichael and East Sacramento, as well as tract homes in Elk Grove, Natomas, Roseville and Lincoln. Call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Put our combined 80 years of real estate experience to work for you. Broker-Associate at RE/MAX Gold. DRE License # 00697006.

Photo: Unless otherwise noted in this blog, the photo is copyrighted by Big Stock Photo and used with permission.The views expressed herein are Weintraub's personal views and do not reflect the views of RE/MAX Gold. Disclaimer: If this post contains a listing, information is deemed reliable as of the date it was written. After that date, the listing may be sold, listed by another brokerage, canceled, pending or taken temporarily off the market, and the price could change without notice; it could blow up, explode or vanish. To find out the present status of any listing, please go to


I have done quite a bit of business online and it was not uncommon for many of my clients to not even view the homes they bought.  I am working on a client for a home.  They live in South Africa and will not see the home until one day down the road they decide to come here for a vacation.

Posted by Pat Yoest, 702-521-1442 (Century 21 Aadvantage Gold, 702-719-2100) over 8 years ago

Wow Elizabeth, I feel your pain.  I too prefer that person-to-person contact, one of the reasons I left corporate life.  I haven't had an all-virtual relationship with a client yet, but certainly one or two that was close to it. Especially if you get sellers handling an estate sale or something of the sort.

But the situation you've described above is all too common.  My personal pet peeve?  The times you call for support and the on hold message tries to upsell you.  Duh.  I'm calling for a problem, and waiting a LONG time.  Now you want to me to buy more stuff from you?  I swear, there are some goods and services I'd be willing to pay a bit more for if only I could talk to a human being when I needed to.

Posted by Karen Crowson, Your Agent for Change (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 8 years ago


I agree. We close many short sales for out of town sellers that we never meet. Mostly sellers who relocated for job purposes but couldn't sell their local home.

With proper systems and staff, sellers can receive excellent service even though they never meet the Realtor or come back to town. Even if much of the interaction is with licensed staff, the seller still realizes that the primary Realtor is the mastermind and the driving force.

Posted by Dave Halpern, Louisville Short Sale Expert (Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827) over 8 years ago

The process you described is why I refuse to use that feature on my office phone system.  No I will not press 1 for Jennie and then have to leave a message.  I want a human to answer, write it down and then get the message to the person immediately. 

And for $12 a month I'd likely let it go until the card expired.  It would cost you more in time and effort than it's reallyl worth.  But then it comes down to the principle of the thing.  If I was bored one day... I might just wait. on hold until I could fix it.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 8 years ago

Hi Elizabeth: I love the technology and so do my out of the area clients. Occasionally, "wet" signatures are needed and they have a hard time reverting. In town clients like the personal attention. But even there, sometimes an immediate signature is needed and there is nothing like DocuSign.

Posted by Hella Mitschke Rothwell, Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker ((831) 626-4000) over 8 years ago

Elizabeth, I find it very sad and infuriating when as a customer I'm talking to machines- when I finally reach a real person the clouds part- I swear I hear angels singing LOL  Technology is great, we rely heavily on it in so many ways, but given a choice, I prefer face to face and yes, I'll take the hug anyday. :>)

Posted by Mary Douglas, REALTOR, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado (United Country Ponderosa Realty, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado) over 8 years ago

Hi Gineva: Ha, my car is almost 11 years old and I barely have 50,000 miles on it.

Hi Pat: Few years ago I sold a home to a buyer from Atlanta who did not see it until the day she arrived in town to sign docs.

Hi Karen: I hear ya -- at least give me a live person who actually works at the company office in town. Is that too much to ask? Yeah.

Hi Dave: I think with people who live out of town, trust is a big issue. They want to know that the agent they have hired and are counting on can actually do the job. It's a little bit easier for sellers who live in Sacramento and can talk to others about your reputation to feel assured.

Hi Tammy: I was leaning toward letting it go, but no, it is in the principle. Lots of times when you hear somebody say, "It's not the money, it's the principle," it's really the money. But $12? No.

Hi Hella: I love DocuSign, too. And I don't even care that we sometimes need wet signatures because I've often got more time to get the wet signatures than I do the initial signatures, and DocuSign is great for that.

Hi Mary: Those voice prompts never understand me. They just make me scream at them. I hate them. Almost as much as I'm hating Google right now.

Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (RE/MAX Gold) over 8 years ago

I HATE those automated systems.  In fact, I was going to report an incident of fraud to a mortgage lender, and tried for one hour to navigate their automated system.  Eventually, I realized that if this is how they are doing business, they deserve the $200,000 loss.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) over 8 years ago

This blog does not allow anonymous comments