VIRTUAL TOURS SPIKE as real estate culture changes

Everyone who has ever put a house on the market knows the importance of good listing photos, but these days a picture is not just worth 1,000 words; it might be worth thousands of dollars and the transaction that sells your home. With the coronavirus still spreading through the United States, an increasing number of real estate professionals are choosing to spend marketing dollars on virtual home tours so that open houses and showings can be less frequent or even nonexistent.

One Washington, D.C., videographer reported,

“We are seeing an uptick in demand for video and more elaborate virtual tours so homeowners don’t need to have an open house.”

He referred to the listing materials as “content,” indicating the need to tell a story or create a narrative that is compelling, attractive, and effective around a property for sale is becoming all-important in a market where the open house is no longer a casual affair. In D.C., the Northwest MLS has temporarily disabled public and broker open-house features until March 31, 2020, in order to minimize large gatherings in homes[1].

Redfin has responded to the prohibition on open houses by offering three-dimensional scans of its listings and allowing agents and prospective buyers to schedule video chat tours of homes listed by other brokerages so that the buyers can view the home without having to enter it. The Redfin agent walks through the home, answers questions, and directs the camera so the potential buyers can inspect the property in detail and at their leisure.

Most brokerages and real estate professionals still active in their local markets have enacted coronavirus protocols, including requiring everyone to practice social distancing (staying six feet away from others) during home tours and stating up front they will not shake hands.

Some investors and agents are trying to screen for health history by requiring potential buyers to fill out surveys or answer verbal questions about recent travel, recent illness, and even current body temperature. One Manhattan agent reports some sellers are screening buyers by travel; one seller will not show their home to anyone who has recently visited South Korea, China, or Italy[2].

Do you think that this level of caution is necessary? Would you buy based on a video chat tour?

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[1] https://magazine.realtor/daily-news/2020/03/17/use-of-virtual-home-tours-spreads-as-coronavirus-cases-spike

[2] https://nypost.com/2020/03/16/coronavirus-fears-turn-real-estate-open-houses-into-virtual-tours/

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