Innovation initiated by technology – and specifically the rise of proptech – has inevitably brought with it an impact on how we buy and sell homes today. The majority of us are familiar with property portals and agency websites, which have revolutionised how buyers both select properties to view and how they assess the market – but more of us across the Carter Jonas network are seeing a rise in requests for a ‘Facetime’ viewing.
Setting foot into what could someday be a future home is described by many as one of the most exciting aspects of the house hunting experience. Our clients often say that they knew instinctively that a home was right for them the moment that they first pulled up onto a driveway or stepped through a front door.
That said, the face-to-face viewing is being preceded evermore by viewings carried out over Facetime – a means by which prospective purchasers can walk through a property – albeit virtually – only committing to a ‘traditional’ face to face viewing if they like what they see on their initial inspection.
The emergence of this trend, with the addition of agents experimenting with virtual reality and other innovations in proptech, is reshaping how we view properties, and in many regards it raises questions over what viewings will be like in the years to come. Will we continue to take the time to travel to properties around work and family commitments, or will we be seeing homes through the lens of an agents’ mobile phone – or something more advanced – in less than a generation?
There are certainly certain ‘demographics’ who are already putting their faith in Facetime viewings and committing to a property, particularly with tenants looking for a new rental, where the market moves at an immeasurable pace.
There is no doubt that the ability to Facetime with a letting agent as they digitally escort would-be tenants around a property has its advantages. Facetime really comes into its own amongst corporate relocators moving for work reasons, who might live at the other end of the country, or abroad and for whom travelling to view a property simply isn’t viable. It does, of course also enable tenants to get ahead of what is often stiff competition in ‘winning’ the race for a particular property.
Prospective purchasers can walk through a home – virtually – and only then commit to a face to face viewing.
Landlords are also subscribing to the Facetime method – perhaps because they are making a practical rather than an emotional purchasing decision, and will already have calculated their interest – and a property’s viability – based on location, number of bedrooms, and tenant demand in an area.
Lessons from new build
Going one further, it’s worth remembering that the new build market has been predicated on augmented reality and CGIs for some time – quite successfully – often because homes simply aren’t built at the point of launch. Regardless, this still feels like a nuance in a market driven so much by the heart.
By contrast, for many owner-occupiers, the decision to purchase a property is based on atmosphere and intuition – two criteria that are difficult to assess virtually.
Furthermore, standing in each room of a house offers the best sense of scale, while the flow of room provides some indication as to whether its suited to how owners like to occupy their home.
Without doubt, technology has transformed the way we search and buy homes. Nevertheless, the general consensus is that if there is a physical product to view, buyers will opt to see it. From what we’ve seen, the Facetime viewing is unlikely to ever occupy any more than a facet of the primary screening process, particularly amongst owner-occupiers looking for a new home.
So perhaps Facetiming an agent isn’t going to be the future in its current incarnation, especially when human connection is so critical to the decision-making process. But if there is ever the technology to digitally immerse a buyer into a property, conveying a sense of atmosphere and scale, and igniting intuition, there is no doubt that it would redefine property viewings forever. And in the meantime, Facetime is another means through which buyers or tenants can filter their choices.