What you need to know about virtual inspections

By Gerv Tacadena

The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way people do their day-to-day tasks. This is evident even in property buying — virtual inspections have been gaining traction among many home buyers and sellers since the social distancing measures were first observed early this year.

While virtual inspections are becoming a regular option for many home buyers amid the pandemic, there are still some who might find the trend perplexing. If you are thinking of having a virtual inspection with your seller or agent anytime soon, here are some of the things you should know and consider:

1. Know and understand the platform used for virtual inspections

There are several ways that a virtual inspection can be conducted. Using a 3D virtual tour is the most common way of doing virtual inspections and was widely used even before the pandemic. There are listing sites that already use 3D models for some properties listed on their sites. You can navigate these 3D virtual tours by either using your mouse and keyboard if you are on a computer or by tapping your screen if you are on a mobile device.

One downside of 3D virtual tours is the lack of interaction with your seller or agent. Most of the time, you will rely on whatever it is that is stated on the listing and what you can see in the 3D models. If you need further information, you will need to reach out to your seller or agent either through call or email.

You can also have a virtual inspection through a video call. Real estate agents and sellers can contact you using Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime to show you around the property. The most significant advantage of using video calls is that you can ask your agent or seller specific questions about the property. You can even ask them to show you around the house in real time. The only possible disadvantage of this set-up is a faulty internet connection that can make the video quality poor.

Some agents and sellers also use livestreaming platforms to conduct a virtual open house. These are usually broadcast through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

2. Make a list of questions and requests

Since you are not physically in the house to make the inspection, you should have a set of questions and concerns ready. Here are some of the things you should ask your seller or agent to show and discuss with you during the virtual inspection:

  • The quality of fixtures and appliances in frequently used rooms such as kitchen and bathroom
  • Heating and cooling systems in place
  • The overall size of the property
  • View from the inside of the house
  • Recent renovation works
  • The view of the house from outside
  • The house's lawn/landscaping
  • Areas that need to be upgraded, improved, or repaired
  • View of the houses nearby
  • Parking space/garage
  • Storage spaces
  • Lighting (natural and artificial)

As much as possible, be exhaustive with the things that you want checked. Given the limitations of virtual tours, it is important to take a look at every nook and cranny of the dwelling. You can ask your seller or agent to zoom in on areas to give you more detail.

3. Request additional photos after the inspection

When you do a virtual inspection, make sure that you take control. After the initial walkthrough of the house, ask your agent or seller to show you the areas that you want to inspect further. In some instances, they might try to showcase certain parts of the house to shift your attention.

To help you scrutinise the house further, ask your agent to send additional pictures and videos after the virtual inspection. You can request footage and photos of the areas that you want to see more of.

Are virtual inspections going to be the new normal?

The real estate industry is seeing a great opportunity in virtual tours as an added touch to property selling. Will this trend become the new norm in property inspections?

It is unlikely that virtual tours will replace physical and private inspections in the future. However, it is definitely going to be a practical option for home buyers who, in some cases, might not be able to physically visit the property. For instance, an interstate or a foreign buyer can conveniently check out houses without having to travel long distances. Virtual tours also widen the target audience of sellers.

While physical and private inspections will always be recommended, there is no denying that virtual inspections are here to stay even in a post-COVID-19 world.

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