Online vs. Traditional Real Estate: How Covid-19 Restrictions Have Changed the Landscape

Online vs. Traditional Real Estate: How Covid-19 Restrictions Have Changed the Landscape

We’ve been living in pandemic times for a little over a year now, and most of us have become accustomed to wearing masks, washing our hands, and keeping our distance from strangers. However, if you’re considering selling or purchasing a property, you may be a little puzzled about how the real estate market continues to operate under such COVID-19 restrictions. 

You’ll be pleased to learn that the housing market remains very much afloat. Many families and working professionals, now accustomed to working from home, have seized the opportunity to move out of urban areas into quieter towns. So, how can you navigate this shifting landscape? And what does the buying and selling process look like in today’s digitized world? We’ve put together a quick guide to clear up any confusion.

The rise of online browsing

Even before the pandemic hit, 93% of homebuyers in the US browsed real estate websites searching for a new property. Real estate websites and search engines can deliver instant, filtered results for buyers based on their budget and preferred location, therefore streamlining the search process. Beyond this, realtors use content-sharing platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Periscope to conduct live virtual showings and entice leads. Thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, such tours have become very popular. 

What are the rules surrounding in-person house showings?

Several states have categorized real estate services as essential, allowing realtors to carry out in-person home showings by appointment only. To minimize the risk of disease transmission during in-person visits, the National Association of Realtors has issued comprehensive guidance for realtors and sellers to follow. Some of the measures include:

  • Checking with local laws and guidelines regarding the permissibility of in-person showings. Rules are constantly changing, so it is worth investigating.
  • Only offering in-person showings to serious buyers.
  • Requesting that all parties due at the showing disclose whether they have been tested for COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms such as a cough or high temperature. You should never go ahead with the visit if someone is symptomatic. 
  • Keep windows open during the showing to ensure the property is well-ventilated.
  • Maintain a distance of six feet between attendees at all times.
  • Avoid handshakes.
  • Ensure there is plenty of hand sanitizer or soap available at the property. 
  • Do not share phones or pens during the showing.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of in-person showings?

Viewings represent one of the most important parts of the home-buying process, allowing prospective buyers to get a feel for the atmosphere of a property. Purchasing a new home is a major life step, after all, so buyers must be confident in their choice of property. For this reason, in-person showings are often favored by buyers, as nothing compares to getting up close and personal with a property. 

Despite this, there are several drawbacks to in-person showings. As well as posing a health risk during pandemic times, they are significantly more expensive than virtual showings and take more time to complete. This is particularly true for prospective buyers who live far away and don’t want to risk spending time and money driving to a property that doesn’t inspire them. 

What happens during virtual showings?

Virtual showings can be held on several different platforms and with as many or as few people as desired. Some sellers and realtors may choose to host open forums, giving live guided tours to large audiences. Others may choose to host more intimate one-on-one guided tours for serious buyers keen to make an offer. 

What are the advantages of virtual showings?

For sellers, large virtual showings have the advantage of garnering buyer interest very quickly and easily. For buyers, virtual showings offer a risk-free way of comparing properties to others in their desired area quickly and efficiently. 

If you’re worried about the effect social distancing may have on your chances of finding or selling a property, don’t fret. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the boom in virtual showings, including:

  • Virtual reality experiences are becoming increasingly high-tech – they’re almost as good as the real thing. 
  • People tend to trust digital technologies much more willingly than they did, say, five or ten years ago. As such, many buyers will be happy to invest in a property they’ve not managed to see in the flesh. 
  • You don’t have to be a tech genius to run a virtual tour – they can be conducted using a camera and simple software. If you’re selling, remember to ensure the house is in tip-top condition before switching on your camera!

The time has come to adapt to the new normal

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both in-person and virtual real estate practices. Despite this, it is clear that virtual tours and other online services have become a part of the ‘new normal’ and are likely to stick around beyond the pandemic. Whether you plan to attend in-person showings or not, the virtual world has plenty of benefits worth exploring.