The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has reshaped many areas of life as we know it. Necessary measures such as social distancing, quarantine and isolation have altered work and home lives for large swathes of the world population, as part of the measures put in place to try and slow the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable members of society.
One area which has seen an unprecedented boost is in the use of virtual viewings for those looking at making changes in the property market. With so many restrictions in place in terms of travel and entering other people’s homes, those looking to buy or rent a new property are now turning to virtual tours to view those properties rather than a physical viewing.
Zuneth Sattar of Xavier Investments Limited has a long-standing interest in the UK rental property market for investment and is continually adding new residences to his property portfolio. Sattar is one of many thousands of people now resorting to virtual tours to get an idea of what a property is like before committing to making a purchase.
Prior to the pandemic, it is likely that most people would prefer to physically visit and view a property before deciding to buy or rent it. However, things have changed. A recent survey conducted by Purplebricks found that a full third of 2,000 UK adults surveyed would be happy to judge a potential new property based on an online viewing, provided they were able to see the entire inside and outside of the property. One in six would go so far as to put an offer in to purchase a property if the virtual viewing showed them everything they needed.
The pandemic has also changed customer demand in terms of what people are now prioritising when looking to move home. Gardens are now seen not as a luxury, but as an essential, multi-functional space that can allow people to socialise even during times where stricter measures for social distancing have been put in place. Functionality in general is becoming more important, as ongoing temporary closures of businesses and restrictions mean that the home, and especially the garden, can often be the only place where people can safely meet family and friends.
Increased Buyer Demand
Zoopla statistics show that buyer demand in Wales increased by 41% just 24 hours after the housing market re-opened following lockdown. Across the UK, buyer demand has increased by as much as 46% compared to levels before lockdown, which given the wider economic landscape is a significant jump. Demand has also risen in the rental sector, with tenancy activity higher now than it has been at this point for the past two years. However, supply is down by around 15% across the sale and rental markets combined, which creates a sellers’ market and could see house prices and leases increase if nothing changes.
At present, virtual house viewings are only available to a limited section of the market as customers are required to own their own VR headsets to access the service. However, estate agents are already embracing the phenomenon, and some have started to offer loans of headsets to people looking at new build properties.
Where complexes are under development with multiple identical homes becoming available, some realtors will allow customers to use headsets they have supplied to virtually view one or more of the properties, as this encourages people further down the buying pathway than a two-dimensional plan ever could.