Physical viewings are an essential cog in the buying and renting process. But with Covid-19 restricting social interaction, estate agents have had to think outside of the box. Does the answer lie in virtual viewings?

Real Life Vs Virtual Viewings: Temporary Fix or Game Changer?

Much of the process involved with buying or renting a home takes place online these days. But when it comes to one of the most vital aspects — actually viewing the property — a physical presence and human interaction is required. 

Physical presence and human interaction. Two things that don’t lend themselves to the current climate we find ourselves in. Covid-19 has mostly brought the property market to a freeze, with the government recommending only essential completions take place. And yet, demand hasn’t slowed to a stop. 

The rental market, in particular, has seen a steady flow of applicants. Tenancies expire, and people still need to move. Agents have had to think outside the box and come up with new ways to conduct a viewing without the buyer or renter physically being there. 

Enter virtual viewings. Showing someone around without them being there in person is slowly becoming the new normal. But what happens when social distancing eases? Will virtual viewings remain a prominent feature with estate agents, or will we quickly find ourselves reverting to the norm? 

Why virtual viewings? 

Despite Covid-19 having a seismic impact on the property market, the appetite to move home hasn’t completely gone away. Estate agent Chesterson’s reported 2,369 new sign-ups and 199 new tenancy agreements in the last month alone.

Benham and Reeves has also reported demand for its stock and, like Chestertons, it has implemented the use of virtual viewings to help get deals over the line. It seems that “virtual” is the new buzzword in the industry, with a raft of agents rushing to offer virtual viewings. 

Benefits of virtual viewings

Virtual viewings come in more than one form. They range from an agent walking around the property while videoing it for prospective buyers to 3D cameras that enable house hunters to take self-guided tours using their computer. 

There’s no need for prospective buyers or renters to visit the property, as they can see what it looks like without leaving their home. Getting a deal over the line without viewing a property is a tough ask, so virtual methods have become essential recently. 

They have been particularly popular in London, with requests for 3D virtual viewing tech up by 80%. Both tenants and buyers have taken advantage of the ability to view homes virtually, using them to see properties on the market and the neighbourhoods where they’re located. 

The rental market, in particular, seems to have an appetite for virtual viewings. Contracts typically last 12 months with a six-month break clause, which means people looking for rental properties may be more inclined to make a decision based on a virtual viewing as the commitment isn’t as high as buying a house. 

Virtual viewing cons

While there is some renewed optimism in the market and an uptick in virtual viewings, getting people to change their mindset entirely will prove tricky. Buying a home is often the largest transaction people make, and many would prefer to see the property in person before deciding to make an offer.

The type of viewing varies, too. People deciding to sell their home during the lockdown will struggle to offer virtual viewings unless they take the video themselves. An agent can provide an appraisal via a video call, but getting the property on the market with vendor-generated photos and videos will be a short-term fix until professionals can enter and take photographs, videos and floorplans. 

Virtual viewings are more useful in empty properties, where an estate agent can gain entry and fulfil requirements. They will also have more appeal with investors, who won’t live in the property but will maximise its use as a rental asset. 

Not so new technology

Despite the recent coverage of virtual viewings, the technology itself isn’t new. In the past, estate agents have dabbled with the idea of offering virtual and 3D viewings, only for the property market to stagnate post-referendum and slow things down. Yet, many agents have used some form of virtual software in the past, especially for overseas investors who are unable to attend viewings physically. 

There are four primary types of virtual viewings, most of which existed pre-coronavirus

Agent videos

The estate agent walks around the property and captures every room with the use of video technology.

Self-starters

Self-starters are homeowners who want to generate interest in their property, and have taken it upon themselves to provide virtual viewings. 

3D

Technology allows house searchers the opportunity to view properties using 3D technology. The downside is that it can only be implemented in the home by professionals. 

Virtual appointments

An agent will show a pre-recorded video tour but be on hand via live video to answer any questions a viewer might have. 

Goodbye to real-life viewings? 

Many are wondering if virtual viewings really are all the rage and if they will potentially replace real-life viewings in the future. The short answer is no. Real-life viewings will always have a role to play. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the virtual option will pale into insignificance. 

Once normalcy resumes, and social distancing measures have eased, virtual viewings be useful for qualifying serious buyers. Those who like what they see on a virtual viewing will then attend the property in real life, while those who aren’t so keen will probably look elsewhere. 

The result could be a considerable reduction of physical viewings and faster transaction completions, as genuine buyers are the only ones left looking for a new home. For years, estate agents have adapted to technology, and a post-coronavirus world will likely see virtual viewings taking their place as a fundamental aspect of the industry. 

Finding the best estate agents for all types of viewings

Whether you’re using real-life or virtual viewings to buy or sell a home, you’ll always need a high-level estate agent working to provide you with the best experience. At Helmsmen, we compare the cream of the crop of estate agents by looking at transaction times, qualifications, experience and which properties they excel at selling. 

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