Real Estate

These Newlyweds Just Bought Their First House Without Ever Seeing It

After a FaceTime tour, they made a full-price offer that the sellers accepted within hours.

Coronavirus 2020

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Jennifer and Justin Lerma, both 32 and first-time homeowners, had been dreaming about buying a house in their Alexandria neighborhood for years. After they got married in the fall, the idea became more real. Every Sunday, Jennifer scoured the internet for new listings. The couple set a budget of $630,000, and agreed they wanted something with a big yard for their three German shorthaired pointers. In March, they began their house-hunt in earnest, touring properties every weekend with their agent.

Then came coronavirus. Like a lot of buyers in Washington, the Lermas weren’t sure if they could—or should—continue their search.

“That last week in March is when everything came to a halt,” says Jennifer, a resident therapist. “In our price range and within our parameters, there were so few houses going on.” Plus, she and Justin, a consultant, were worried about adhering to social distancing. “I didn’t even want to bother looking for houses [online],” she says.

But on Thursday night, March 26, Justin convinced her to take a peek—and there it was, a newly renovated house on Tilbury Road, with nearly half an acre for their dogs, listed for $600,000. They’d already seen another house on that street, so they knew they liked the area. “I was up all night, going through the pictures of it over and over again,” says Jennifer. “The next morning, as soon as I got up, I nudged my husband, and I was like, come on, we’re gonna drive by.”

Once they’d confirmed from the safety of their car that the house–and the yard—looked good from the outside, they texted their agent, Steve Gaich. “They said ‘we really want to see this, but we don’t want to [go inside],'” says Gaich, who works with Compass. “I said, ‘I’ll go down there and FaceTime you.’ I toured everything for about an hour, answering all their questions.”

By that point, the Lermas had seen about 20 other houses with Gaich in-person, so Jennifer says they felt they could trust his judgment. “I just asked him to do everything I would do—show me the flow from the front door to the kitchen, show me how you would move through this house in a logical way. Turn on all the faucets, and try all the light switches,” she says.

That afternoon, Friday, March 27, the Lermas made a full-price offer without ever setting foot inside—and their contract was not contingent on a physical visit at a later date. Within a few hours, the sellers accepted.

The Lermas scheduled a home inspection for that Sunday—it would be the first time they would see their house. Leading up to it, says Jennifer, “I didn’t really sleep for those three days.” During the inspection, she says she and Justin kept their distance from the inspector, while they checked out their new digs.

Fortunately, the place lived up to the photos, and the couple plans to close on April 30. Now, though, they’re worried about the move. Jennifer says she’s confirmed with the moving company that the movers will wear protective masks and gloves. She says the company has also agreed to delay the move date if necessary. But if all goes as planned, Jennifer says the timing might have actually worked in their favor. “I feel really bad saying this, but I definitely think coronavirus helped us. Not only are mortgage interest rates lower right now, there was also less competition.”

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She was previously a reporter for Legal Times and the National Law Journal. She has recently written about the decades-old slaying of a young mother in rural Virginia, and the brazen con of a local real-estate scion. Kashino lives in Northeast DC with her husband, two dogs, and two cats.