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Homebuyers’ concerns over virtual tour privacy

By Jamie Richardson | February 14, 2022

Out of all the concerns homebuyers could have when looking at a property, one would never guess virtual tour privacy would come around. Unfortunately, the worldwide pandemic has changed how businesses operate across industries. Real estate is not an exception.

With the restrictions and social distancing, it became impossible to have an open house and work an entire day, showing a home to one buyer after another. 

Let's see what has changed and those new concerns homebuyers have today compared to just a couple of years ago. 

Virtual tours as new normal

Realtors and real estate agencies had to adapt in their efforts to protect themselves and their respective customers and stay in business. It was logical to see them turning to technology to continue doing business during pandemics. 

That’s precisely why virtual tours became so popular. They remove the chance of spreading COVID-19 and make the entire process more convenient and less time-consuming. Agencies or realtors offer over 65% of homebuyers a virtual tour, and 10% of them complete a purchase without having an in-person meeting with a realtor at all.

Yes, potential buyers can’t experience the look and feel of home first-hand, but this is the next best thing given the circumstance. Unfortunately, virtual tours as a new normal hit a wall as more and more homebuyers started expressing their concerns over virtual tour privacy.

What seems to be the problem

The problem is the proprietary tech realtors started using to market, organize, launch, and manage virtual tours. There is no such thing as an impenetrable technology and app. Each one poses a specific security threat. For instance, hackers can hijack a realtor’s email and insert phishing links to get sensitive information from potential homebuyers.

Also, a real estate agency’s online accounts can get hacked, and private customer data can leak. For a virtual tour to occur, everything must take place online, leaving both realtors and homebuyers vulnerable. There is also another problem.

Many realtors and agencies were caught by surprise by the new developments. They didn't have any standardized processes or tech stack for virtual tours. They started using solutions ad hoc. Hackers can exploit plenty of vulnerabilities in a setting where there is no umbrella-like cybersecurity solution and where people use personal devices.

People are aware of cyber threats

The report on real estate market trends from August 2021 clearly shows that modern homebuyers are tech-savvy. They are very aware of cybersecurity threats. They know that virtual tours are not the only thing that exposes them to specific traits. It’s the other processes taking place online that concern them as well. 

The registration for the virtual tour, for instance, is one of them. The report we’ve mentioned states that homebuyers are almost equally concerned about sharing personal information through an email or mobile app. Around 43% responded that they are concerned about sharing information via email, while 53% responded are concerned about doing it via a mobile app.

As many as 42% of the homebuyers would still like to view the houses on the market in person if it’s possible. They say that what worries them the most is the misrepresentation of the property. Furthermore, they list personal data security and other technical problems as concerns.

Given that these are big numbers, addressing the concerns adequately is essential. Realtors and agencies have plenty of options.

Is there a quick fix?

Realtors and agencies can address these concerns. With the right tools at their disposal, they can communicate trust to homebuyers and ensure that their data is safe. Standardizing the use of virtual tour software would be a good start. 

A trustworthy software application is developed with realtors and home buyers in mind. It doesn’t store any sensitive data, which is excellent news to homebuyers' cybersecurity concerns. And it ships with an abundance of features to help present the property correctly, which is great news to those worried that the property will end up misrepresented.

The regular updates of such software, including the updates of operating systems across all devices used by realtors, is also a step forward to a more secure business. Another way to add a security level is getting a Virtual Private Network. A VPN download and usage are seamless, allowing even less tech-savvy users to reap their benefits. Such programs encrypt users’ traffic, preventing snooping and data interception. Thus, potential homebuyers can enjoy virtual tours and prepare online documents without worrying about leaking information. 

Antivirus and firewall tools can be of great help. They can prevent hackers from installing malicious apps on your devices to steal data from you. Don’t forget to communicate what you did to address homebuyers’ concerns across channels, including an official website and social media profile.

With more cybersecurity solutions in place and a standardized approach to virtual tours, the homebuyers' concerns should subside. However, this must be a continuous effort as cybercriminals find new backdoors and shortcuts to sensitive data.

Jamie is a 5-year freelance writer who enjoys real estate. He is currently a Realty Biz News Contributor.
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