The number of virtual viewings taking place has more than doubled since the Coronavirus pandemic, it has been revealed, but it’s largely tours of newbuild properties driving the boom.
Zoopla says this is both a reaction among agents to the impact of lockdown and social distancing rules, but also that for some time online and virtual tours have become the new normal for newbuild properties.
“Our research shows that 89% of home hunters want information up front before they will consider viewing a property,” says Andy Marshall, Zoopla’s Head of Commercial.
“With this in mind, we have no doubt that the number of listings with 360-degree tours available will grow as agents and developers work to meet this demand.”
Many estate agents in the UK are either offering virtual or video tours, or completing appraisals via smartphone apps, to try and keep instructions, reservations and offers rolling in.
The latest to achieve this is Savills, which ran an advert in the Sunday Times last weekend promoting its ‘online viewings’ at the Barts Square new-build development in the City, while Galliard recently launched its third development offering fully immersive 3D tours.
“I think there are two mindsets here – agents who just want to hibernate until it’s all over, and those who want to keep going and use virtual viewings to carry on,” says Mikus Opelts of virtual viewings firm Giraffe.
He says the return to normal trading is likely to take place in stages and that even if buyers remain reluctant to do one-on-one viewings after restrictions are relaxed, agents will be able to once more start filming them again.
But it’s not just viewings that agents are offering. Many are also using virtual appraisals and valuations to gain instructions including Winkworth. Last week it began offering free video valuations via 45 of its 100 offices in London, Hampshire and Kent.
This is not high tech, though; Winkworth is using online virtual meetings technology such as Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp to complete the virtual appraisal tours.
But it’s the only option agents have at the moment who can’t access properties; existing resale properties with owners living in them cannot be visited under the government’s lockdown regulations, leaving room for only vendors’ own ‘tours’ recorded on smartphones, an opportunity Purplebricks has been trying to exploit. This leaves only empty newbuild homes as a viable virtual viewings option for the time being for freshly filmed tours.