As communities continue to encourage social distancing to slow the spread of Covid-19, countless aspects of our daily lives have gone virtual, and that includes a rise in virtual tours for home buyers across the US. Although there’s no replacement for an in-person visit when you’re comparing potential future homes, virtual tours provide other benefits and can save buyers a ton of time. Rather than spending an entire day driving around and looking at homes, you can quickly narrow down your favorites and disregard the rest. Discovering online that a house is not right for you makes it much easier to move onto the next option—especially if you’re in a time crunch.
Because buyers are discovering the convenience of virtual tours, we expect that this trend might be around for a while. If you’re in the market to buy a home and you’ve decided now is the right time, here’s how to assess a property from afar.
Draft a Plan. Designate an uninterrupted stretch of time to view the properties you’re interested in and space out your viewing sessions so that each home receives a baseline level of time and attention. You may be able to view some properties 24/7, while others may require virtual appointments because they are led by live realtors or developers. Before you begin, avoid technical difficulties by making sure your internet connection is strong and your device of choice is charged. While touring the homes, jot down your initial impressions and plan to revisit (either virtually or in person) any homes with potential.
Speak Up. If possible, request a live tour over a pre-recorded video so that you can ask for close-ups and inspect any details of the home that weren’t captured in the photos on the listing. Homes are best viewed with lots of natural light, so ask the tour guide to open all the windows or turn on the lights for the best view. Request that the tour guide zoom out when applicable to get a better feel for the home’s dimensions.
In addition to all the usual hot spots (the bedrooms, the bathrooms, and the kitchen), ask for a tour of the exterior of the house and, if possible, the surrounding community. How close are the neighbors? What’s the landscaping and curb appeal like? Is ample parking available?
There are certain aspects to buying a home that can’t be measured in square footage, so be sure to have a list of your “musts” when you’re taking a tour so you can check them off as you go. If your tour isn’t live, follow up with the seller to get answers to any questions.
Know When It’s Time to Make an In-Person Visit. While some buyers use virtual tours to buy homes sight unseen, the vast majority consider them to be a supplementary tool, perusing options online as a way to weed out deal breakers. View your favorites in person so that you can test out appliances and assess the condition of countertops.
Just as important, use it to immerse your senses in the space: hear what it sounds like to relax on the porch at sunset or smell the backyard when you open a window, to stand in the doorway and imagine yourself coming home. After all, virtual tours may be great time-savers that can give you a head start on your home search, but they can’t (yet) fully communicate the feeling of a home.