Viewing a house during coronavirus
We look at what is on offer, and the pros and cons for homebuyers of virtual viewings - plus what viewings might look like in a socially-distanced new normal.
May 12, 2020
As of today, viewing a house is now possible again – in England at least. The government are advising:
- Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible and property agents should help you to do this.
- All physical viewings should be limited to members of the same household and open house viewings should not take place.
- When physically viewing properties, where possible, you should avoid touching surfaces, wash your hands regularly, and bring your own hand sanitiser. The number of people on a viewing should be minimised to those from your household that absolutely have to be there. If you need to be accompanied by small children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.
- If people are being shown around your current home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.
- As most people choose to, we recommend that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household.
- Anyone involved in any aspect of the home moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.
- All parties involved in a visit must be well with no COVID-19 symptoms
Finding properties on Rightmove and Zoopla offering video tours and virtual viewings
To be honest, we didn’t find that many properties with a virtual tour attached when searching online in a number of different areas. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t available on request. It very much depends on the estate agent marketing the property in the area you want to buy as to whether they are offering them up front with the property particulars.
On Zoopla you’ll find a play triangle icon next to the camera icon (photos) which means there is a video. See for example this North London property has a video tour.
On Rightmove you need to look for the video tour tab next to the description. See this Surrey home for example.
As you can see these video tours are more promotional than comprehensive or informative. They give viewers a little bit more of an idea of the property, but we found them only slightly more helpful than the photos. You certainly don’t get every room, angle and corner of the property.
Indeed, the estate agent’s regulator, The Property Ombudsman, has warned estate agents they risk falling foul of Consumer Protection laws when conducting video viewings. Agents must make sure prospective buyers have all the material information, and video tours fall short of doing that.
If a listing whets your appetite and you want to see more now, we would advise contacting the estate agent and arranging a physical viewing in line with the guidelines above.
If you are feeling nervous about visiting the property, you could ask if the home seller could offer a live walk through via zoom, whatsapp, skype or facetime. If the seller is willing, this will give you a lot more information as well as an opportunity to ask questions or pause on a certain room. Even so, you’re unlikely to get answers to the common questions you should be looking for at a physical viewing.
Should you buy a home based on a virtual tour?
No! Video tours or online walkabouts with the owner/tenant are intended as a first filter, giving you an insight into a property.
You must see the property yourself before putting in an offer. It’s one of the most important decisions and biggest financial outlays you’re likely to ever make. So we recommend you wait until it is safe for estate agents to conduct viewings in person again before making offers.
If money is no object or you’re super keen to secure a home, you could speak to your agent about making an ‘offer agreed subject to viewing.’