Buying a Home Virtually: How One Couple Moved Across the Country

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With today’s modern technology coupled with the social climate surrounding the pandemic, many changes have taken place to facilitate conducting both our business and personal lives virtually. A few years ago it would seem outlandish to buy a new home virtually, but that is exactly what Warren and Brent did when they decided to move with their dogs from Ottawa to the other side of the country. How did they do it? Let’s find out!

A long-term plan

Warren and Brent had been working on their 10-year retirement plan, which, at the time, involved the purchase of a home in Florida and an intention to split their time between the US and Ottawa until finally retiring and settling in Canada’s West Coast. For years they watched the housing market in Florida, waiting for the right time to buy. 

As with many things, outside factors weighed heavily on whether or not the plan could work. The poor performing Canadian dollar coupled with an uncertain political climate in the United States prompted them to reconsider what their retirement would look like.

Since their government jobs were now completely home-based, it no longer mattered where they lived. They could turn their sights from Florida towards their retirement end-game of Victoria, BC—a decision also prompted by their familiarity with the neighbourhoods as well as its irresistibly fair climate.

Above and beyond

The couple had become familiar with Victoria from previous visits and had an idea of where they wanted to live. They initially relied on the REALTOR.ca mobile app to build a list of prospective homes.

The next logical step was to take their list and connect with a local REALTOR® in Victoria. This is one of the key ingredients to the success of this venture. They connected with Jodi, a REALTOR® who was willing to take the extra time needed to guide them through all the details that would normally happen in-person. For something as important as buying a new home, this requires patience and trust from all sides.

Virtual walkthroughs and 3-D models, oh my!

Acting as a guide for Warren and Brent, Jodi took them on walk-throughs of homes using her iPhone while they observed from their Ottawa home. Once they found the home they liked best, she would take a deeper dive, showing them all the nooks and crannies to give them a complete view of the home’s features. 

The home they loved the most also had a 3-D tour available, which allowed them to get to know the layout of the home. The 3-D model boasted a feature which allowed them to test out measurements for their furniture and decide how they would arrange their rooms. This was a bonus because they could strategically plan what to keep since they were using this opportunity to downsize to a more minimalist lifestyle. 

A virtual juggling act

After making the decision to put in an offer in early August, it was time to get the virtual ball rolling to buy the house while simultaneously listing their old one locally. All-told, it took six weeks from the acceptance of their offer to walking into the front door of their new home in Victoria.

Because they were selling their own home in Ontario and buying their new home in another province, they enlisted the services of two real estate lawyers and REALTORS®. This required precision timing on the part of their lawyers and REALTORS® to arrange all the contracts, mortgage payments, and title transfers at the right time. 

“It was seamless, it didn’t matter that we were moving to Victoria.”

This is where DocuSign was a blessing. The service allowed them to review and sign their legal documents completely remotely. This was a highlight for Warren and Brent due to the ease and convenience of the service, “It really streamlined the process for us.”

Sound advice

What can we learn from Brent and Warren’s experience? Here are some key take-aways:

  1. Plan ahead: Do the research and be sure of where you wish to live.
  2. Be patient: Take your time to ensure you connect and build rapport with professionals who are willing to take the extra care and attention needed for this virtual process.
  3. Keep an open mind: When house hunting virtually, make a list of must-haves and good-to-haves and be prepared to make some compromises.
  4. Be kind: You’ll be experiencing new stressors from all directions, so remember to be kind and supportive—you’ll get through this!

“It was an adventure. We took this leap together, and I’m glad we did it.”

Ironically, despite the ease with which their purchase and move came about, their belongings arrived two-and-a-half weeks late. When asked what they would say to themselves if they could go back in time, the immediate response was, “take your coffee machine with you in the car!” 

While everyone’s situation is different, we hope Warren and Brent’s virtual experience will help you prepare and make the most of yours. Just remember the most important thing is to be patient, keep an open mind, and support each other.

REALTOR.ca is the most popular and most trusted real estate website in Canada. Owned and operated by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), REALTOR.ca provides up-to-date and reliable information that makes finding your dream property easy and enjoyable. REALTOR.ca is popular with sellers, buyers, and renters and is accessible online and on mobile devices.


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