Unable to show buyers around properties in person, estate agents are turning to innovative methods to enable them to still view potential new homes.
Virtual viewings are taking off as home-hunters continue to look for new properties during the coronavirus lockdown.
For those who are keen to find a new home there remains plenty of choice. Our own Zoopla figures show there has been no mass withdrawal of homes from the property market as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
"There is a slight silver lining in that cloud that we are starting to see," says Charlie Bryant, our own CEO of Zoopla. "Number one: people have kept their properties on the market.” The number of homes for sale is currently only one per cent lower today than on March 7.
To take a virtual tour of homes you're interested on Zoopla, simply select the video icon next to the photographs on each listing and imagine yourself at home there.
Alternatively, you can actively search for homes to rent or buy which have video tours by selecting advanced search options and adding the keywords "video tour".
How do virtual viewings work?
The types of virtual viewing available vary between different estate agents.
Some have used 3D cameras that enable house-hunters to take a self-guided touraround a property using their mouse to do everything from standing at the kitchen sink and looking out of the window, to measuring the size of wardrobes in the bedroom. You can see an example below.
In other cases, agents have taken their own videos as they walk around a property themselves.
Some agents are also offering virtual appointments during which they talk potential buyers through a virtual viewing as they would if they were at the property in person.
If you want to get a better idea of certain rooms in a property, you can contact the estate agency listing it and ask them to liaise with the buyer to send you additional photographs or videos. The buyer may even be able to carry out a live tour for you.
Agents are going the extra mile to continue to assist buyers and sellers during the lockdown and will be more than happy to help in any way they can.
The lawyer's view
Amy Hazelton is senior paralegal in the new homes team at law firm Blake Morgan.
"We have seen the introduction of 'virtual' appointments for potential buyers which allow the sales staff to show them around show homes without buyers leaving the comfort of their own homes.
"Some estate agents are able to offer pre-recorded video tours too but the advantage of a virtual tour is that a sales representative will be live to answer questions on the way around the property as if they are actually walking around the property together.
"The technology allows viewers to take accurate measurements of rooms and most buyers would not actually see the finished product in person until closer to the end of the transaction."
The 360 degree video creator's view
Ollie Kilvert, from Cambridgeshire, runs The 360 View, which offers 360° virtual walk-throughs for developers, estate agents & commercial property clients. Originally working as part of an in-house video production team, he started his own business four years ago after personal experience selling his home which showed him the power of 360° viewings.
"We put our three-bedroom terraced house in Sheffield on the market with a very proactive estate agent, who got our business after showing us his own Matterport camera," he says. "Thanks to the virtual tour, we sold our home to a retired British couple from Singapore.
"When we finally met with the new owners, they said how they loved being able to zoom in and see the wood-grain on the banisters. That was the lightbulb moment for me; how different property viewing could be from listings with photos."
Ollie's clients include new home developers, for whom he and his team have shot hundreds of videos using Matterport cameras and software to upload and edit.
"Clients can embed their tours on their websites, on portals like Zoopla and share teaser clips on social media," he says.
"Rather than a customer having to read through pages of specifications, we can use Mattertags and attach them to specific areas of interest like 'granite work tops ' and 'integrated double oven'.
The Matterport technology also has a function where you drop yourself into a property, zoom out to see a dolls-house view, change to a floor plan view and then click to explore anywhere else in the property
"It's a time-saving tool for estate agents, especially for second viewings when you want to check the storage in the third bedroom. It's also great for people buying with the bank of Mum and Dad who want reassurance.
"This isn't just for top-end properties. It works really well for a two-bed house. Our rate card means we charge £300 for a three-bed house and £420 for a five to six-bedroom house."
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The estate agent's view
Trevor Tackie, 41, from Maidstone, Kent, is co-director of independent estate agency Trevlyn Properties.
"Video viewings are an extension of what we offer as an online agency," he says. "People buy designer clothes from Net a Porter they've never tried on or touched, but they feel confident buying because they've seen the video and trust the seller. And now that e-commerce view is coming to property."
Trevor and his team have been using video for the last 18 months. He sees it as "extra reassurance" for potential buyers and renters at a time when the coronavirus lockdown prevents them from viewing homes.
By way of example, he describes how a couple based in Hong Kong made an enquiry through Zoopla on 10 March. This was for a two-bedroom flat in Canary Wharf, London with a spectacular view from the terrace priced at £899,950. After seeing Trevor's walk-through video, on 24 March after lockdown, they put in an offer for £860,000. Their offer on the flat they plan to live in was accepted and conveyancing is going ahead.
A newly-refurbished three-bedroom flat in Stoke Newington, North London for rent at £2,100pcm was due to be viewed by three sharers living just round the corner and eager to flee an ongoing mouse problem. But the coronavirus lockdown put paid to their plans to view the property in real-life. Trevor sent a walk-through video he'd previously recorded on WhatsApp - and a let was agreed. They are due to move themselves in shortly.
"People are still searching for property even if they can't physically view," says Trevor. "If they can see a video that fits their criteria, then you get a quick response."
What type of homes offer a virtual tour?
While nearly eight per cent of properties listed on Zoopla currently offer some kind of virtual tour, some properties are more likely to offer them than others.
For example, residential properties are seven times more likely to offer a virtual tour than commercial properties.
At the same time, homes that are for sale are three times as likely to offer a video as ones that are listed to rent.
New-build homes are also twice as likely to offer a virtual tour of some kind than older properties.
In fact, we have seen a 215% increase in virtual viewings of new-build properties on our site, suggesting they are a big hit with potential buyers.
Andy Marshall, our chief commercial officer at Zoopla, says: "While this is partly in response to coronavirus, we anticipate that online and virtual tours are quickly becoming the new normal. Online viewings afford convenience and flexibility."
How can I get a virtual viewing added to my home listing?
Unfortunately, under the current social distancing rules, estate agents are not allowed to come out to your home to film a virtual viewing.
But there is nothing to stop you doing one yourself using the video function on your smartphone and sending it to your agent for them to list with your property.
While your efforts may not be of the same standard as a professional’s, there are still a number of steps you can take to ensure your home looks good.
Have a good tidy up and declutter before you begin filming, and consider home-staging.
Pick a time of day to film your tour when the light is best in your home, as how much light a property gets is one of the key things potential buyers look for.
Finally, don’t rush your tour, but move around your home slowly to give potential buyers a really good feel for it.
If you are lucky enough to have some eye-catching features, such as an antique fireplace or ornate banisters, be sure to showcase these in your tour.
Top 3 takeaways
1. Virtual viewings are taking off as potential buyers on lockdown continue to look for new properties.
2. Nearly eight per cent of listings on our site now include a virtual tour as estate agents use technology to continue to showcase their clients’ properties
3. If your estate agent was not able to film a virtual tour before the lockdown started, consider filming one yourself on a smartphone