With show flat viewings not allowed due to the current safe distancing measures, you might have seen the news about property developers and agents having a hard time selling units.
With an uncertain timeline of when normal activities can resume, the more enterprising are now turning towards virtual property tours to allow potential buyers to check out prospective new property purchases.
How should we think about these virtual property tours, and are they a good enough substitute to in-person viewings that we can make purchase decisions worth hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars on? Here are some aspects you should think about.
#1 Getting An Accurate Feel Of The Environment
With a virtual tour, you would not be able to observe how much noise is in the area, or if the new home is too stuffy or it is particularly musty. Also, exposure in cameras can be adjusted, which can affect one’s perception of how bright or dark a room or house is.
How convenient your new home is located is also a very important concern to have, with good amenities and ease of moving around being a big factor when buyers choose their new homes. Ideally, you would want a home that has easy access to amenities such as malls, hawker centres and MRT interchanges.
Even though you might be able to find out the distance to such amenities online, you have no surefire way of knowing what the actual walking distance is. Also, you might want to observe traffic conditions during peak hours, or the actual walk from the drop-off point or bus stop to your prospective home.
All these are things that are only possible if you make a trip there in person, and are current limitations of virtual tours.
#2 Are There Defects That Are Not Immediately Apparent?
Unless you are planning a large-scale overhaul, one of the most crucial parts to consider when purchasing a house is the condition of the place.
Whether buying or renting a pre-owned house, you would want to know if there are any defects, such as cracks in the wall, creaky floorboards, or potential leaky pipes and ceilings. This can normally be noticed easily with a physical walkthrough, especially if you are deliberately looking out for these defects.
However, with a virtual property tour, the seller may hide or obscure such defects through camera work, or simply because you’re limited how you navigate around the virtual house, making it harder to detect the existence and severity of defects.
#3 How Are The Neighbours?
Neighbours are an important part of your home life, with possible lifelong friendships (or enemies) being forged, due to your proximity.
When buying an apartment that you would be living in for possibly the next few years, you want to at least know that your neighbours are not hoarders, have persistent loanshark problems, or love to litter extensively in common areas.
However, with virtual property tours, you would miss your chance to take a look around and get a feel for the community residing around your immediate area.
#4 An Accurate Sense Of Space
Space is vital when choosing a new home, as you would want enough space to live, work and play comfortably. Normally, you would get an idea of how much space you have when visiting physically.
Even if you have a floor plan and measuring tape, you might not be able to easily visualise how big your new house would be, and whether you will be comfortable with the layout.
Virtual Tours Are Better Than Nothing, But Don’t Replicate Site Visits (Yet)
If you have to buy or rent a house during this period, virtual house tours are better than nothing, but we should be aware of their limitations when making any purchase or rental decision.
By being aware of what they show, and not show, we can do our best to fill in any information gaps, such as obtaining a floor plan or speaking with people who are familiar with the area or property development for more first-hand accounts.
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