Step into the (virtual) real world

PropTech and other digital wizardry that assist the buying, selling and renting of properties has been around for some years. We are, after all, a mobile workforce that moves from location to location and can’t always take the time out to physically view a property or sign paperwork. 

Before the pandemic hit, a third of estate and letting agents were already planning to increase their use of technology and the lockdown has accelerated their plans.  

With hundreds of thousands of property transactions put on hold, the property sector has had to turn to technology to keep things moving and now remote buying, selling and renting could be here to stay. 

Valuations from afar

With agents not always able to enter properties to provide sales and lettings appraisals, they had to turn to virtual alternatives. 

Using smartphones, homeowners are now sending high-resolution images and videos of their properties to agents, which are combined with external reviews, desk research, floor plans and land registry documentation to provide super accurate valuations without stepping through the front door. 

Initially, many lenders were reluctant to approve mortgage applications without a qualified survey, but it now seems the tide is turning. Bespoke software has also become available that involves the property owner downloading an app and being virtually guided round the property with a registered valuer.

With restrictions now easing, it’s suspected that most agents will return to physical appraisals (and that lenders will again tighten their criteria again) but for many, a virtual valuation will remain a time-saving and hassle-free first step towards selling or letting.

Viewings from your sofa

As of April this year, just 8% of properties on Zoopla offered some kind of virtual tour. They were more common with homes for sale rather than to rent, although they were more prolific within the new build sector as they can be easier to create with no residents in situ. Virtual tours, however, are now becoming commonplace across the property board.

At the lower end of the scale, property owners are using smartphones and video conferencing software to record or host live tours themselves. However, many agents are now turning to more sophisticated virtual reality software, such as The 360 View, which caters for immersive self-guided virtual tours. It’s even reported that these allow for detail such as wood grain on bannisters to be seen.

At the very least, some virtual experiences give us the information we need to commit to taking the next step, like booking a physical viewing. But during the pandemic, buyers have been making offers or agreeing a new tenancy on virtual viewings alone. 

While virtual viewings were the only option during the early months of the pandemic, we predict they will never completely replace a physical visit. They do, however, have the potential to allow movers to filter out unsuitable properties during the search phase. In theory this means only the most serious, genuine potential buyers and tenants will visit properties in person.

Sign on the dotted line…..without ever picking up a pen!

Thankfully, modern-day technology already allows for much of the property paperwork and administration to be completed remotely but the events of 2020 will certainly encourage those in the property sector without the right software to invest in some. 

Remote tenant referencing – including ID checks – are already possible, while e-signature technology means important documentation  – including deeds – can be completed without pen or paper.

Maintenance & inspections made easy

For landlords, property inspections were off the cards during lockdown, so many opted to carry them out using bespoke apps like zInspector and by collaborating with their tenants. As many self-managing buy-to-let investors don’t live near their properties, this could save a huge amount of time in the future. 

More innovative, however, is the development of smart devices and appliances for in and around the home. Not only do they have the capability to alert owners and property managers to potential problems and predictive maintenance, they can also make running a home or rental property cheaper and more efficient. 

The future of refurbishment….now

If your heart is set on remodelling or extending a property on the market – perhaps to achieve the home of your dreams or to convert a house into shared accommodation to rent out – 4D visualisation technology now allows you to see a newly designed space before you commit to any work. 

This, coupled with virtual property scanning services that lets you take accurate room measurements, means you can see new room configurations, kitchens and bathroom suites in situ, and even how the light affects a space at different parts of the day simply by slipping on a set of VR goggles.

Some of these technologies are now becoming the norm, while others are reserved for more forward-thinking parties. One thing is for sure though, there’s a virtual property experience coming to a town near you very soon! Contact us for further information.