Your shrewd grandfather probably would have disowned you for it. And yet, it's so tempting.
Here in this time of beachfront condos and ski chalets at up to 40% off their old asking prices, combined with high-speed Internet connections allowing video tours and Google maps showing their neighborhoods, it would be easy to buy a piece of property without seeing it in person. There are no statistics for how many property buyers take that risk, purchasing a house before stepping foot in it, but it happens.
"It's a little like Russian roulette," says Ed Garcia, a real estate agent in Miami. "It's a huge gamble. You may come out of it with a gem, but can you afford it if you don't?"
Web sites like eBay (Stock Quote: EBAY) have brought the international real estate market to the comfort of one's laptop. If you're looking for an online timewaster, there's nothing better to do than to check out the site's property deals, like the 4,200-square-foot tudor-style home on a golf course in Canadian Lakes, Mich., for around $650,000 (including club membership). Or look for the Port St. Lucie condo with no reserve that can be had for about $48,000.
Of course, deals like these need to be done "now." If you don't act fast, you're going to be left out, as the ads always say. And it's easy to think "here we go again," since you didn't take advantage of the big Nordstrom sale a few weeks ago. But buying a house is much different than getting a new pair of slacks.