Technology is revolutionizing the real estate industry, introducing home buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals to exciting and effective new ways to buy and sell property. Digital document signatures, 3D tours, matching algorithms, virtual showings, and even virtual reality are changing the way we do real estate. Now, more than ever before, these technological advancements are essential to the real estate experience—and none more so than virtual showings. COVID-19 has dramatically impacted our way of life, how we shop, how we interact with others, and for those in the midst of moving—how we buy and sell real estate. With limited ability to travel, or even be in the same room as someone who is not part of our household, many businesses and industries are suffering. But what does that mean for real estate? Thanks to virtual showings, the real estate industry is more accessible than ever before.
The traditional real estate process involves what can sometimes be a long series of house showings. Buyers and their agents go from one house to another doing a walkthrough tour of the property. Real Estate agents provide helpful details about each home and answer questions for buyers as they arise.
While often a tedious process—depending on how many houses you view before you choose to make an offer—showings are an important step in the home buying decision. Some buyers will even visit a property multiple times in order to solidify their perspective of that home or view it at different times of the day.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were situations in which a home buyer was unable to view a specific property in person. Whether moving from out of state or navigating busy work schedules, when a buyer is unable to make an in-person showing, agents will utilize virtual showings.
There are two common methods used when referring to a virtual showing. We’ll focus on both. Real estate agents can work with companies that provide VR equipment to capture images of a property and home. This technology allows them to create a 360-degree video imaging that buyers can view wherever they are: on a computer, tablet, or even their phone.
The other type of virtual showing is a digital chat tour. Using tools like FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom, agents will invite the buyer(s) on a video call while completing a walkthrough of the house. While only the agent is present in the house, the potential buyer can still view the property, ask questions, and experience the showing virtually.
Agents have depended on virtual showings in the past to assist buyers who simply couldn’t be present for in-person showings and to help buyers eliminate properties from their list before doing in-person showings. As we face the challenges of a global pandemic, however, the benefits of virtual showings are more evident—and more in demand—than ever before, bringing technology to the forefront of our real estate experience.
In this unusual season, we are currently facing, the safety of you, your home, and your family is a top priority. Early tests of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, indicate that the virus can live in the air for up to 3 hours and on certain surfaces for several days.
Many real estate agents are taking special precautions to keep both homes and buyers safe during showings. Buyers are asked to wear gloves, shoe coverings, and masks, and not touch any surfaces unnecessarily. Agents are also carefully disinfecting spaces before they leave.
Despite these measures, agents, buyers, and sellers alike are finding that one of the best ways to keep all parties safe during the real estate process is with virtual showings. A VR photography team would only need to enter the house once, but sellers can still ensure that many people view the home without ever stepping foot inside.
Virtual video showings also help limit traffic in and out of a home. Buyer’s agents can work with sellers to create a procedure that keeps contact at a minimum. Sellers leave the doors unlocked and lights switched. That way agents can simply enter the home, gloved and masked, and carefully walk through the home with their client at the other end of a video call. They would not need to touch anything other than door handles, which they can disinfect before they leave the property.
If there is one thing we need more of, it’s time. Showings can take an extraordinary amount of time for all parties involved: agents, sellers, and home buyers. For in-person showings, sellers must remove themselves—and their pets—for the duration of every single home tour. Buyers and their agents lose time commuting from house to house, and when showings are only available during the workday, buyers must scramble to take time off work.
Virtual showings eliminate many of the time constraints that come with traditional showings. Buyers can view a home from the comfort of their own home or office. Agents save time by helping buyers narrow their list of homes to only those they are truly interested in. And sellers no longer have to rush out the door or board their pets.
Even video showings help save some of the time that is lost during a showing. Even though agents may still be commuting from house to house, virtual showings typically take less time and agents can quickly move on to the next home.
While moving trends vary from year to year, the latest census data indicates that over 7 million people move between states each year. Not all 7 million are home buyers, but many people moving states will be on the hunt for a new home long before they make their move. Virtual showings provide a huge advantage to buyers looking at homes from out-of-state. Viewing a home online gives them the ability to look at more homes and get a better understanding of their options before flying across the country to look at homes in person.
For sellers, providing virtual showing capabilities means that home has a much broader reach than if only in-person showings were available. Virtual showings mean that interested buyers from across the country have access to view and tour a potential real estate opportunity.
This is especially pertinent right now as people still need to move, but have limited ability to travel. Real estate is essential to providing homes for people across the nation, and virtual showings help ensure the industry continues to move forward.
Due to time constraints, buyers can often feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of house showings they attend before finally settling on that perfect home. Some buyers will spend months viewing homes, a process that is, at times, both exciting and incredibly tedious.
Virtual showings, however, open up a world of opportunity for buyers and agents alike. With 3D virtual tours and video chat showings with their agents, buyers never have to leave their own homes in order to view their next potential property. Through this process, they can actually view more homes, in less time. For uncertain buyers or those who are simply facing too many options, this allows them the freedom to view and review a home, and quickly fine-tune their list of favorite properties.
The digital tools agents use for virtual showings and video tours have an even wider capability when it comes to showing homes via the internet. Now, as regulations in many parts of the country prohibit—or at the very least, impede—open houses, agents are shifting their focus to providing virtual open houses in much the same way they would offer a virtual showing.
Agents announce their open houses using social media platforms, and at a designated time, they show up on Facebook Live at the listed property. Viewers then get to participate in a live tour, ask questions, and otherwise experience the home much like they would at an open house. Except the only person actually in the house is the agent.
Virtual showings and open houses are more than just a coronavirus era trend. Home buyers increasingly seek to minimize time spent on the home buying process, move across the country without multiple trips back and forth, and make decisions about real estate from the comfort of their homes. In the midst of this season where digital tools have become a necessity, however, the real estate industry has an incredible opportunity to grab hold of the latest technology that is transforming the future of home buying and selling.
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