Virtual viewings and tours are now commonplace, but nothing beats visiting a property in person.
So how are developers and estate agents ensuring that homes can be viewed in complete safety?
View properties solo
Government advice is to start your search online and only visit properties in person that you’re seriously interested in.
When doing so, wear a face mask, avoid touching surfaces where possible, wash your hands regularly and also be prepared to walk around a show home on your own.
‘We are operating a socially distanced viewing policy, so customers do not come into contact with the sales adviser and instead view the property themselves,’ explains Kush Rawal, Director of Residential Investment at Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing.
‘They are also required to use the hand-sanitiser provided and to wear gloves during their visit. Before and after every viewing, the property is cleaned thoroughly throughout.’
Scan the room
On unaccompanied viewings, you’ll always get the chance to put your questions to the agent via a video call, but Countryside has a free Show Homes app, which acts as a virtual tour guide and is available to iPhone users.
Simply point your device at the ‘scan me’ stickers throughout the show home to play a recording about each room’s specification.
The Countryside Show Homes app can currently be used at Feature 17 in Walthamstow and Brook Valley Gardens in Barnet.
Grab an Uber
Quintain Living provides potential residents of its Wembley Park rental community with a free Uber to and from their current homes within the M25.
They are also given the option of an 100% self-guided viewing with no face-to-face interaction at all.
Selling an older home brings a fresh set of challenges. As well as doing their best to make their homes appeal to buyers, vendors are taking extra measures to reduce the risk of Covid-19 being transmitted during viewings.
Many, not surprisingly, are very cautious about who they allow over their threshold and agents are having to think outside the box to keep all parties happy.
‘The vendors of a flat we are selling in Finchley have moved into a vacant property in the same block in order to reduce contact with prospective purchasers and make them feel more comfortable,’ reports Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent.
Jo Eccles, a buying agent, came up with a novel solution to allay the fears of the owners of a house in Notting Hill.
‘A client was keen to do a second viewing before he made an offer but the vendors decided they didn’t want any further viewings until Covid cases had dropped,’ says Jo, who runs Eccord, a property search, acquisition and management business.
‘We had a doctor meet us at the property and do a rapid Covid test on the doorstep so that we could demonstrate a negative result and go ahead with the viewing.’
Meet Sam, a recent addition to the team at German estate agency Kampmeyer and the country’s first robot estate agent.
He’s 5ft 7in tall, weighs 11 lbs, and rather than a suit and clipboard, is equipped with a high-resolution camera, sensors, an obliging nature and the ability to get into — and out of — the tightest corners.
Potential buyers simply click on a link to operate him remotely from anywhere in the world via a smartphone, tablet or computer, going at their own pace so they can view every angle of the property and see the rooms in changing light conditions.
Time will tell whether robots become mainstream in hosting viewings but however advanced the technology, AI won’t be able to replace the human touch that’s integral to the buying process.
What to be wary of: Virtual Tours
A online tour might not give you the full picture, so bear these factors in mind when deciding whether to visit in person, recommends Pete Mugleston, managing director at onlinemortgageadvisor.co.uk.
Are problem areas hidden?
On a proper viewing, you can examine all the nooks and crannies with your own eyes, but virtually it’s much easier for problem areas to be brushed under the carpet — quite literally.
Don’t be afraid to ask for close- ups or even photos of any spots you feel you didn’t quite get to see.
Is everything working?
Under normal circumstances, you can make sure that the shower works or notice a leaky tap. Again, this can be very easily disguised through a camera so ask for a full run-down of what might need fixing.
Are colours different?
Rooms may appear lighter or darker depending on how much light the lens takes in.
Check where windows are placed and ask whether the property is south-facing, as this will usually indicate how much natural light it gets and when.
It might not be obvious how well behaved your neighbours are until you move in, but a property viewing can usually give a good idea on what to expect from those in nearby properties.
Is the size right?
The floor plan includes dimensions so check it carefully before the virtual tour as on camera some rooms can appear larger or even smaller than in reality.
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