How to get the best out of a virtual viewing

Virtual property viewings are increasingly helping movers find their perfect home – particularly with the current coronavirus lockdown restrictions in place.

The housing market remains open and in-person viewings are still permitted across the UK, but Government advice on home moving in England states: ‘Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible.’

Buyers and renters can take a peek behind a property’s front door from the comfort of their laptop, phone or tablet – whether that’s through an interactive 3D tour, a pre-recorded video or a live walk-through conducted by the vendor, or the agent if the property is empty.

OnTheMarket has an ‘online viewing’ filter enabling you to search only for properties that feature a video or 3D tour with the listing. 

Here’s our guide to getting the most out of a virtual viewing. 

Video viewings

Although you’re not physically in the room, there are lots of ways you can gauge a property’s condition from a video viewing. 

Estate agent Chestertons’ guide to video viewings for buyers advises taking note of different aspects of the property including:

– The age of the kitchen and bathroom  

– Visible cracks in the walls or ceiling, and signs of damp

– If the property has been recently painted as this could be covering up underlying issues

– Whether there is storage space, especially in the kitchen and bedrooms

– The view from the windows

– Condition of the windows and whether they are single or double-glazed. 

Christopher Linton, Buying Agent at BTF, says aerial views – which you might see on a video with high production values – can give you an idea of the property’s surrounds and whether it’s close to a road, particularly in the country. 

You can also glean details such as whether the décor suits your taste and the lightness of a room, though you won’t necessarily know what time of year a video was taken or what the weather was like outside.

3D virtual tours

The advantage of an interactive 3D tour over a video viewing, says Carly O’Brien, Marketing and Operations Director at Michael Graham estate agents, is that you can get inside every room and space of the house. 

“A 3D tour will allow you to see every aspect of the property, the good and bad,” she says. 

“If an agent is glossing over certain rooms or missing out parts of the property there is probably a reason why, even if it is just for the aesthetics.” 

Carly adds that there are also a number of measuring tools available through most 3D tour software, “so you can make a decision if that new sofa is going to fit without the hassle of further viewings.” 

Follow up with a live video viewing

If a video or 3D tour has whetted your appetite, you could follow up with the estate agent and ask for a livestream guided tour, which could be with the vendor or the agent themselves if the property is empty. 

That can be arranged through technology such as WhatsApp, FaceTime or Zoom, for example. 

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“The great advantage of a live video tour is the option to ask further questions like you would in person,” says Carly. 

“Such as what the local schools are like, local amenities and the neighbourhood. It’s also a great opportunity to ask the vendor further in-depth house questions such as what may need replacing or could be due an upgrade, ie. the boiler.” 

Christopher Linton adds that you can also direct the agent or vendor to show you different elements of the property, such as the view from a desk or from a kitchen sink, and the outside space.

Do some extra research too

Getting clued up on those things you might not get from a virtual viewing is an important step in the process. 

“You have to approach something like this with the objective view that you’re not going to be able to glean everything from a virtual viewing that you could from an in-person one,” advises Christopher. 

Chestertons say the top three things buyers take into account when placing an offer are location, size and price. 

“All of these things are much easier to check online than they are on a viewing,” the agency says in their video viewings guide.

That could include Google Maps and floorplans, for example. You could also check the sold prices of houses in the area at OnTheMarket.

How do virtual viewings compare to in-person viewings?

Christopher Linton believes that virtual viewings shouldn’t be relied upon as a substitute for in-person viewings but have a valuable role to play in the current restrictive climate. 

“You’re not using it as a platform for making an offer, in my opinion,” he says. But Christopher also makes it clear that people shouldn’t put themselves at unnecessary risk by undertaking in-person viewings where a virtual one would suffice. 

Property-seekers should also follow government guidelines at any physical viewings, which include social distancing and wearing a mask. 

“A physical inspection is going to pick up a feel,” says Christopher, which you just don’t get with a virtual viewing. 

He believes a virtual viewing can help you form a shortlist, rule a property out or give you a springboard for more research. 

Giles Milner, Marketing Director at Chestertons, says: “Video viewings with the right questions can be as effective as a physical viewing.” 

He advises that movers should sharpen the questions they ask after a virtual viewing. 

“For example, instead of saying, ‘How good are the appliances?’, ask how old they are.” Giles adds: “Certain things you will not be able to tell but you can mitigate that in the questions you ask. An agent cannot withhold information.” 

Giles says that many movers will still want to physically view the property if they can, but stresses weighing up the risks in the current climate. 

Chestertons also advises getting a full survey before committing to a purchase.

It’s also worth checking the rules around moving home in the different parts of the UK during the Covid-19 outbreak: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Content provided by OnTheMarket.com is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.

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