The Coronavirus pandemic is a very serious, unprecedented reality that the entire world is dealing with. While Illinois has reopened into Phase 4, many people are feeling very anxious at the prospect of doing things that used to be normal or routine, such as house hunting. Searching for a new home has become a scary prospect for many people who don’t want to go into public spaces. How can you get a good idea of the right home for your family without seeing it in person?
Spring and summer are usually peak seasons for the housing market. By this time of year, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see an abundance of “open house” signs and crowds gathering to tour newly listed properties. Due the COVID-19 pandemic, state social distancing regulations and the general uncomfortability of possible germ exposure, potential home buyers are faced with the challenge of finding – or even purchasing – a home without ever physically taking a tour.
Do not be discouraged by the pandemic. There are still plenty of homes for sale and ways to work around this obstacle! Your forever home may be a few quick clicks away with a virtual tour: “Nowadays there are tons of property listing websites where people can put their homes up for sale or rent.”
Real estate agents and sellers are getting their properties on the market safely with the aid of virtual home touring. Virtual home tours (also known as 3D tours or 3D walkthroughs) allow home buyers to digitally tour a home that’s for sale. Virtual tours are quickly becoming the new “norm” for house hunters across America. During March of 2020, Redfin saw such a large surge in video home tour requests:
“As the coronavirus upends the buying process, house hunters are increasingly relying on Redfin’s virtual technology for viewing and closing on homes. Redfin saw a 494% increase in requests for agent-led video home tours last week, following an 80% increase the prior week, as homebuyers began relying heavily on virtual viewings amid the coronavirus outbreak. As of yesterday, 18.9% of tour requests made on Redfin.com were video-chat tour requests, up from 0.2% at the beginning of March – a 94-fold increase.”
You’re probably wondering if it’s possible to get a good feel of a home just by looking at it on a computer screen. When you hear “virtual tour”, the first thing we think of is clicking away on images provided by a seller or agent on a website. That may have been how things were done a few years ago, but there now is a new, highly interactive way of digital house hunting…
What to Know About Virtual Home Tours…
Basic Virtual Home Tours: “Virtual tours allow you to get the immersive experience of walking through a property without ever having to leave your home.” Online home shoppers can check out most home selling websites like Zillow or Redfin to get started. On these sites, it isn’t hard to find what would be considered a basic tour. With most standard virtual tours you’ll notice a carousel of photos or listing videos. These basic virtual tours are not live and do have some limitations. This version of virtual touring is to give the potential buyer a quick overview of the listed property. As a buyer you only see what the seller wants you to see. Each picture is wisely selected by the seller or their realtor.
Quick tip: Try not to make final decisions about the property based solely on the images. They’re generally photographed from one point of view to at times make a room appear bigger and sometimes have filters on them. This is why live video calls with an agent walking through the property is ideal.
Many people have found their true forever home online! As shocking as this may sound, when done correctly house hunting virtually can be a real joy and very convenient. “79% of buyers shop for homes online, and about one-third of buyers say virtual tours or videos are extremely or very important to their home shopping,” according to Zillow Group consumer housing trends report.
Connect With A Real Estate Agent: Often when we research buying anything online, it can lack that secure feeling we get when making an in-person purchase. This is why it’s important to hire a trustworthy real estate agent to guide you during this time. An agent will personally walk through properties for your family. They’ll have access to all digital, as well as newly added listings, in the areas you desire. Many agents are adapting protocols based on their client’s personal needs by utilizing communication tools such as these video calling apps:
- Facebook Messenger
With these options readily available, your family can develop a great relationship with an agent while searching for your potential forever home. “Showing homes virtually is business as usual. Guzmán, a Realtor, started showing homes in the Chicago area over Facebook Live and FaceTime five years ago. Just before the virus swelled into a full-on pandemic, she closed on a home entirely over text, email, FaceTime and e-signature.” NBC News
Quick Tip: Contact real estate attorney Ben Weaver if you need help finding a reputable agent in your area. Also, read our blog “The Difference Between a Real Estate Agent vs. Attorney, and Why You’ll Need Both”!
Grab Your “New Home Wish List”: A new home wish list is a well planned list of all the things you are looking for in your future home. For example the number of bedrooms your family needs, which neighborhood is right for your lifestyle, and how long your daily commute to and from work would be. All of these things will be on your wishlist so you can come to the table prepared when meeting virtually with your realtor. Don’t have a wish list yet? Learn how to create one with our guide! This list is the key for not getting distracted while sorting through the abundance of homes on the web.
Quick Tip: Create columns of what you like and what you don’t like about your current living space. This will give your realtor specific things to take notes on!
Zillow’s survey found that: “more than a third of Americans (36%) say they are more likely to try to buy a home entirely online during the coronavirus pandemic, and 30 percent say after the current outbreak ends, they would do the same.”
Live Virtual Walkthroughs With Your Agent: When house hunting, buyers do more than just walk through each room. Under “normal circumstances”, a buyer will evaluate the home using all of their senses. A couple examples of how to use your senses during a tour:
- Nose: What does the house smell like? Was the previous owner a smoker, cat owner, or a hoarder?
- Ears: Did you hear a weird noise when turning on the kitchen faucet, creaking while walking upstairs, or banging within the walls when the furnace is on?
Since you can’t physically be there, be sure to ask your real estate agent to use their senses and provide honest feedback while walking through a home via video. Be brave and speak up if you notice anything. Kindly ask the agent to return to a room again if you need another look. Most reliable agents have years of experience and they will value your honest feedback and your desires. This will make you the perfect team for house hunting!
Quick tip: Get a notebook and create sections for taking notes during each tour. Make sure to include bullets for smell, hear, feel, etc. This will help you stay organized and remind you to ask key questions!
Don’t Forget Curb Appeal: During a virtual walkthrough, have your agent spend some time on the exterior of the home. People tend to forget about the outside of the property. While your primary focus may be on the interior the the home, don’t forget to look around the outside of the property. A few examples of what to look for:
- Are there visible cracks in the foundation?
- Does the home appear to be leaning?
- Check the condition of the driveway and garage
- Take a look at the state of the siding, roof, and gutters
- Is there a backyard? Is it fenced in?
Quick tip: Prior to doing the virtual walk through, review the basic initial images sent by the seller (or on the website). Take note of anything that catches your eye beforehand. Then ask your agent to go to these locations and investigate. This will save both of you time!
3D Walkthroughs Take It To The Next Level: Unlike basic virtual tours, 3D walkthroughs give you multiple points of view (POV). This high tech way of viewing a home is a great place to start. You can view a home as if you’re walking through it yourself. If you like what you, see save the link to the property and email the information to your realtor. Some of the apps that we mentioned in the beginning have a save and share feature within them.
“Like a virtual house tour, 3D walkthroughs let prospective buyers get a feel for a home without actually visiting the location. A 3D walkthrough is a virtual rendering of the home that allows potential buyers to see what it would look like with different furniture than it currently has or without any furniture at all. It provides a more flexible option than a virtual tour, which only presents what already exists in the home.
A virtual tour is a video. A 3D walkthrough is not. It creates a vision of the property to scale and brings it to life through digital rendering. While you can get a feel for a home’s features from a walkthrough, a 3D digital rendering gives you a sense of the space. It’s a separate experience than a virtual house tour, designed for a different purpose.” Design Blendz