Virtual Tours and the future of Rental Property Viewing

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic locked us all inside our homes for months on end, many different industries had to adapt to a digital environment – including the real estate business. But is it really possible to view a property digitally, and feel confident enough to put an offer in without seeing in person? Are virtual tours the future of property viewing?

In this article, we’ll explore the meaning of a virtual viewing, run through its pros and cons, and gain an understanding of how online and face-to-face viewings can work together to answer the question of whether or not online and virtual tours are the future of rental property viewing.

What does ‘online viewing’ mean?

There are a number of different types of online or virtual viewing. The first and most basic type, the ability to scroll through photos and videos of the property on websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla, is certainly not a new element. Images and floor plans have been present on online listings for a long time. However, images can be taken from flattering angles and edited or distorted to make rooms look bigger or more appealing than they really are.

In the height of the pandemic, many estate agents offered more in-depth video walkthroughs – a pre-recorded video, taking potential buyers and renters through a property room by room and offering a deep insight into the property, answering common questions viewers have at in-person viewings. These videos can be published alongside photos and floorplans to support existing online listings, and are more difficult to be edited, so provide a more truthful representation of what the property really looks like.

One step further was the introduction of live video viewings, done over a video chat software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. In these viewings, an agent would show the prospective tenant round in real time, over a video chat. This allows the viewers to ask questions and receive answers in a live environment, but from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, virtual reality (VR) tours have emerged as the newest tool, reshaping the way properties are viewed. With VR technology, individuals can immerse themselves in an interactive representation of a property, allowing potential buyers or renters a greater understanding of the property’s layout, and design, without ever stepping through the door. 

What are the advantages of online viewings?

The rise of online viewings occurred due to safety requirements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, online viewings offer several other advantages, on top of enhanced safety, both to the seller/ landlord, and the viewer:

  • Convenience: Virtual tours allow potential buyers or renters to view properties from anywhere, at any time, without the need to physically visit each location. This flexibility can save time and resources.
  • Accessibility: Online viewings make properties accessible to a wider audience, including those with mobility issues or those located in different areas. This expanded reach can increase the pool of potential buyers or renters and increase the probability of finding the right match for a property.
  • Cost-effectiveness: For both property sellers and potential buyers or renters, virtual tours can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional in-person viewings. Sellers can save on staging and maintenance costs, while buyers or renters can save on travel expenses associated with visiting multiple properties.
  • Time efficiency: Virtual tours enable viewers to quickly filter through properties and narrow down their options based on their preferences, before taking the time to view them in person. This can streamline the property search process and lead to more efficient decision-making.
  • Reduced foot traffic: By holding online viewings, it means that the day-to-day life of the current occupants is barely disrupted.

What are the disadvantages of online viewings?

Although virtual tours offer convenience and accessibility, they can also present several challenges that could impact the viewing experience of potential buyers or renters:

  • Limited sensory experience: Virtual tours don’t provide the same experience as physically visiting a property, such as the ability to feel the texture of surfaces, assess natural lighting, or understand the atmosphere of the neighbourhood.
  • Misrepresentation: Photos and videos can be staged to highlight desirable features while downplaying flaws, potentially leading to unrealistic expectations or disappointment. Virtual tours may also distort proportions, making it challenging for viewers to accurately assess the size and layout of rooms.
  • Technical limitations: Online viewings can be made difficult by technical issues such as poor internet connection, buffering, or compatibility issues with different devices or platforms, disrupting the viewing experience and frustrating everyone involved.
  • Lack of personal interaction: Online viewings may lack the personal interaction and rapport-building opportunities that occur during in-person viewings, potentially hindering communication between buyers or renters and estate agents or sellers.

By understanding the disadvantages associated with virtual tours, buyers, renters, and real estate professionals can make more informed decisions and ensure a smoother property viewing process.

How do online and in-person viewings go hand-in-hand?

Because of the disadvantages discussed above, it is probably not the best idea to only view a property virtually. However, we aren’t knocking the idea of virtual viewings altogether. In fact, when paired with in-person viewings, virtual viewings can be an effective way of efficiently vetting a property before deciding to view it in person.

Online viewings allow viewers to pre-screen and shortlist properties, based on more than simple photographs and descriptions that are posted online. They provide an initial overview of a property’s layout, features, and overall condition, helping individuals to determine whether a property meets their basic criteria before committing to an in-person viewing.This means that individuals will only book in-person viewings for properties that they are extremely interested in, which saves time and resources for both agent and viewer.

When paired together, both online and in-person viewings can play crucial roles in the final decision-making process. While virtual tours help individuals to narrow down their options and pre-screen properties, in-person viewings provide the opportunity for a more detailed evaluation, ultimately leading to a more informed decision. This can reduce the likelihood of contracts falling through at a later date when new information becomes available.

How Aspire to Move can help

If you’re looking to rent a property in or around the Bath or Bristol area, Aspire to Move are here to help!

Get in touch with us today to discover how we can help you find your dream home!

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