Virtual tours catch on as Coronavirus outbreak spreads

Real estate professionals are increasingly opting for virtual house tours to show off their listings as the coronavirus outbreak continues to cause fear in the U.S.

The move comes as Leonard Steinberg, chief evangelist and corporate broker at Compass, called for a two-week moratorium on in-person home showings. Meanwhile, Redfin’s CEO Glenn Kelman has said his brokerage is canceling all open houses on its listings and limiting in-person showings to no more than two clients at a time.

Virtual tours are however proving to be a useful alternative to in-person viewings, and more agents are turning to them. Some prefer to use video call software such as FaceTime to walk buyers through their properties.

“As a virtual tour provider in Washington, D.C., we are seeing an uptick in demand for video and more elaborate virtual tours so homeowners don’t need to have an open house,” Roman Caprano at Sky Blue Media told realtor.com. “In our market, homes sell in days, so any agents typically only invest in photos, but now they are purchasing more content.”

New York City-based Ideal Properties Group last week launched a virtual listing viewer called Showing on Demand.

Elsewhere, the Washington Association of Realtors has announced that the Northwest Multiple Listing Service has “made the difficult decision to temporarily disable the public and broker open house feature in the Matrix system,” its CEO Steve Francks said in a statement.

“Until at least March 31, brokers will not be able to input, search, or view public or broker open house information in Matrix,” he added. “Open house information will not be available for display on member public websites (IDX and VOW sites). NWMLS will separately contact all listing brokers who have a scheduled open house to let them know it has been removed from Matrix.”

Virtual tours used to be the domain of larger and more expensive homes when they first started becoming common, but Keller Williams salesperson David Kong told the New York Post that he’s now offering them to a much wider group of clients. While virtual tours can’t fully replace in-person showings, they do help prospective buyers to evaluate a property better when they can’t visit it physically.

“For those that are concerned about the virus, this allows them to make a more informed decision about the property and whether to get out and go see it,” said Wes Jones, a managing broker with Keller Williams in Bellevue, Washington, a Seattle suburb

Redfin has also started posting interactive 3D scans of all of its listings, so buyers can view them without any health risk. The service also enables buyers to schedule a video chat tour with the listing agent for homes sold by other brokerage. Redfin’s agents will discuss the features of the home as they walk through it, and will respond to any requests to pan the camera or zoom in on specific details.

As for in-person home tours, Redfin has issued guidance to its customers, asking them not to shake hands and practice “social distancing”, which means staying at least six foot apart from anyone else present during the tour.

“The reality is real estate is a contact sport,” said Cara Ameer, a real estate professional in California, to realtor.com. “And that means exposing yourself to a lot of potential germs from shaking hands, interacting at open houses, and touching all sorts of doorknobs and light switches multiple times a day. I think we need to adopt a new normal of practices during this period of time.”

Mike Wheatley

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at mike@realtybiznews.com.

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