Home sales were hit hard by the pandemic, but houses are selling at a faster rate compared to the same time last year.
Covid-19 accelerated use of virtual walkthroughs, 3-D mapping and drone surveys of residential properties.
For home buyers, though, a virtual experience is not likely to beat the comfort of a physical walk-through.
Prospective buyers getting their first glimpse of potential homes through smartphone cameras connected by Skype, FaceTime and Zoom.
3-D modeling technology used to create digital walkthroughs that can be replayed at any time from nearly any angle, and can even fill an empty room with virtual furniture.
Shelter has always been a basic personal need, but coronavirus and the ensuing lockdowns have made it more critical than ever.
Home is not just a haven from the pandemic, it's now the office, gym, movie theater and cocktail lounge in one.
For real estate, an industry dependent on how people feel about a potential home in-person, the pandemic and the ensuing need for social distancing, cleanliness, and minimal contact, has changed technology's role from nice-to-have into a must-have. New technology tools like virtual walkthroughs, 3-D mapping and drone surveys, were adopted years ago, but only on a case-by-case basis with select properties.
Coronavirus has transformed these specialty tools into de facto industry standards. The video conference is now the norm.
Technology caught up to where we live.
How video calls are changing real estate deals
One of the most mentioned technologies seeing widespread use is in fact one of the simplest: the video call.
The technology used is typically consumer-grade because that's where the customer is. The housing market was battered by Covid-19. Existing home sales experienced some decline, but the worst may be over.
Properties are selling at a faster rate compared to the same time last year, and new contracts and new listings — while lower than a year ago — are easing in their rates of decline.
The virtual walkthrough is accelerating, even though with varying success, the existing home search, with buyers winnowing down the list of potential properties faster than before.
Rather than going and seeing 30 different homes in person, you can see them virtually.
But despite the coronavirus-accelerated move to digital and rethinking of physical home priorities, most buyers do want to see the property in person.
A majority of homeshoppers still do want an in-person tour before putting down their hard-earned down payment.
Online-focused real estate companies that have evolved their own buying and selling marketplaces, are adjusting to that demand.
While most of the process of homebuying, from negotiating a deal to writing an offer, can be done electronically, the in-person walkthrough is essential.
Even homeowners who have bought properties "sight unseen" say the visual walkthrough is critical.
For a major life purchase like a home, you'd prefer to see and touch and feel it in person.
The tactile experience is important, If you're gonna spend that much money on a property, you really want to see it in person.
In fact, the biggest changes of all coming out of the pandemic may be less about technology and more about how buyers define the idea of a home.
Stay-at-home orders forced households to re-evaluate what they need and what they don't. Everything from the importance of a home office to yards for people to exercise or grow their own food.
The future of virtual tours
While this surge in video home-touring may not lead to a surge in virtual purchases anytime soon, the usefulness of the tool during this time of social distancing will likely have lasting effects on the real estate industry.
The majority of buyers are still going to want to see a home for themselves before signing on the dotted line, but the popularity of virtual tours in the short term will lead to their use as a “previewing” tool in the long term.
As virtual tours increase in quality and prevalence, buyers will look to them as an initial screening mechanism. A virtual tour will be seen as a prerequisite before committing to an in-person tour.
Right now, virtual tours are a point of difference, but in the future they will become an expectation. We can all benefit from a more efficient buying process.