In-person property viewings are, of course, firmly off-limits for now, as life in lockdown due to Covid-19 continues. For many, this strange period may mean moving plans have to be put temporarily on the back burner, yet others, as we’ve discussed previously, may have little option but to find and move into a new home.

People have been using video viewings for longer than you may have realised as a practical tool for seeing and taking on a property when they can’t do so in person, perhaps because they’re relocating or are currently based in another country.

And, after all, you’ve no doubt booked a two-week holiday in the past without seeing the hotel first.

However, clearly, taking a property and making such a big decision based on, essentially just watching a bit of film, may seem an overwhelming prospect. But it’s a far easier and more effective process than you may have realised, and, during lockdown, the online viewing has come into its own. So estate agents are increasingly offering them, with homes that come with video tours often actively promoted online as such.

Video call tools such as Zoom are particularly popular, since you can take the video tour in real time and ask questions. That way, there’s a stronger sense of doing a ‘real’ viewing than with a pre-recorded clip.

During lockdown, a video tour also makes it possible for you to put in an offer subject to a viewing in person once restrictions are lifted. Likewise, tenants can either agree a short-term contract or agree a moving date for post-lockdown if they don’t need to get into the property immediately.

Virtual tours: the benefits

  • Obviously, in lockdown, when visiting a place yourself simply isn’t possible, a high-quality video tour is the next best thing, giving you a good feel for a potential new house or flat while staying safely at home.
  • Another big benefit (even outside lockdown) occurs when you’re looking at places in a competitive market and sought-after property can be very quickly snapped up, or several people may be chasing the same home at the same time, possibly within hours of it becoming available. Thanks to video, you can make your decision at speed where necessary.
  • Even without the lockdown, video viewings save time, especially if you’re not able to get out to multiple viewings. There’s also the convenience of being able to view videos at anytime, anywhere, on your device of choice.
  • Equally, videos can efficiently filter out those properties which you decide are not for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Thanks to modern technology, video viewings these days are very detailed, and can give a strong feel for what a place would be like to live in. That said, it’s likely you’ll have more questions than with a physical visit, but usually these concern details can be easily cleared up.

Our premises may be shut for now, but we’re still very much working from home and available to people. So we’re happy to answer any questions you may have after you’ve done a virtual viewing, and understand that you’re bound to have things you need to know.

Here are some of the things you might like to ask:

  • If you’re renting and can’t quite see the condition of the place, ask when it was last decorated or how old the kitchen and bathroom are. Equally, if the décor isn’t too your taste, it’s worth asking if it could be changed before you move in.
  • Need to see a particular room or feature in greater detail? It may well be possible to send you further images or video footage.
  • If you’re moving into a flat, ask about communal areas and their condition, as they probably won’t be included in the clip. Ask about any potentially noisy or disruptive building works, either in the block itself or nearby, as well as shared facilities such as bike storage and security facilities such as an intercom. Also ask who is responsible for managing the building or block.
  • Equally, tenants should ask if a six-month break clause can be allowed in the tenancy agreement, which would make it possible to leave after six months with no penalty if you were unhappy for any reason. This gives you extra peace of mind.
  • All the questions you’d normally ask when viewing a place in person still apply – from council tax to when the boiler was last serviced to how long the current residents have been in the property.

Further tips

As well as making sure you have all the information you need before signing anything, use tools such as Google Street View to get a better feel for a place’s immediate surroundings.  This can show you how busy the street or road is, and what neighbouring properties look like, for example.

It’s also worth getting a copy of the video and keeping it unless you need to refer back to it – and remember to do a ‘live’ video tour where possible.

Consider making any agreement ‘subject to a physical inspection’ before you commit to anything.

Next steps

Chief executive of Oakfield Estate Agents Neil Newstead said: “We’re very happy to start the ball rolling with an informal video chat about what you need so we can get to know each other a bit in the first instance.

With the video viewings, we’ll always take care to highlight potential pitfalls, such as local noise or planning permission. And we’ve been working hard to make sure everyone has all the information they need to make a decision.

We’re very aware that any new home is always a big deal, so we won’t make anyone feel rushed, least of all now during these difficult times for everyone.

Get in touch and we’ll take it from there.”