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With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to lockdowns across many regions, stakeholders in the property sector have had to resort to other means to keep business flowing. Buyers have been unable to make visits to properties, but this hasn’t stopped property agents and businesses from finding a workaround for those interested in buying and selling. Virtual tours have become the solution for many, something that has kept the property market going.

While it’s easy to think of virtual tours as an innovative answer, the reality is that online and virtual visits were already a part of the property industry. However, COVID-19 may have sped up their adoption. Property sites such as Zoopla have previously had just a fraction of their listings provide virtual tour options, meaning the technology has existed but without much incentive to use it. With the pandemic, the technology has received a massive boost, with Zoopla reporting a surge of interest in virtual reality (VR) viewings.

At a time when public health is a major concern, the use of virtual viewings is a safer alternative, not to mention a time-saver for property agents. One of the appeals of virtual reality is that the technology offers better visual detail than one would get from photos posted on a website. For interested buyers from overseas, virtual tours eliminate the need to travel back and forth, saving time and making the process easier for buyers and sellers alike.

Practically, virtual tours can take many forms, including 360-degree images, videos, the use of drones, and video call options. Property agents believe that these are a better alternative to solely relying on a floorplan or brochure and can also help to identify buyers who are serious about the process. With an increasing number of interested parties being younger, the use of virtual viewings leans into this generation’s preference for technology. The letting market, for example, has experience of this, given how many young professionals and international students will rely on a FaceTime session to assess their preferred properties.

To property investors such as Zuneth Sattar who are keen to satisfy the property demand experienced amidst the pandemic, virtual viewings are a welcome option. Mr Sattar began his property interests in residential property investments for rental purposes. His portfolio has expanded over the years, but residential properties remain a core focus of his business.

Get the Most of a Virtual Tour

Undoubtedly, many buyers will be interested in viewing the videos that agents put up. For those who rely on video, it’s important to ask the agent to provide more footage if possible. This is because some aspects of the house could be edited out – parts that could be just as important as the footage that makes the final cut.

Additionally, potential buyers are encouraged to make a video call to the agent for the latter to walk them through the home virtually. Be confident in asking the agent to show any spots that a home video may have left out. This emphasis on the little details is vital to ensure that buyers have a complete view of the entire property, similar to what would happen during an in-person viewing.

If the photos and video from the virtual tour are appealing enough to want to proceed, ask the agent to provide the seller’s disclosure of the property. The disclosure highlights any known issues with the property while providing details of any improvements made plus the age of various features. This information can help buyers to decide whether to move forward, or rule out the property and continue their search.

Lastly, remember that the neighbourhood is just as important as the property itself, so use all available resources (interactive neighbourhood maps, Google Earth) to check out the amenities, transport routes and layout of the surrounding area.