According to NAR’s 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the average home buyer looked at just 9 homes before making a purchase in 2019, down from 12 in 1987. This is likely due to better photography, 3D tours, and floor plans being included in their online home search. It’s not hard for buyers to scroll through and establish their preferences before seeing their first home in person. They now narrow their choices from obvious deal breakers, which means on showing day, they have less homes to view. But has the pandemic changed the process?
A Missing Piece of the Latte Vision
Back in 2013 at Inman Connect San Francisco, Brad Inman dropped an 8-inch thick packet of documents on the stage with an audible thud. The papers were from his recent home purchase. He questioned why buying a home couldn’t happen as simply as buying a latte. While many of the tools were available at the time, market conditions weren’t pushing buyer and agent behavior in that direction. (We are largely still waiting for the mortgage portion of the process to catch up.) Brad still holds hope for the ‘latte vision,’ and the events of this year have been a true catalyst to move the industry in that direction.
Paperless transactions and e-signatures are standard operating procedure. But the home search process has remained stubbornly non-virtual. Before 2020, it was unthinkable that buyers would purchase a home without the usual tour of homes to prompt their final choice. But lockdowns and stay-at-home orders changed everything. Agents had to figure out how to help their buyers effectively assess and decide on homes when visiting in person was difficult or impossible. Limiting risk meant limiting showings, and in some areas where real estate was considered non-essential, owners were sometimes tasked with conducting virtual showings.
Seeing Homes While Staying Home
The button to ‘request a virtual showing’ was already coded into many home search websites, but suddenly agents across the country saw a sharp rise in those requests. Prior to the pandemic, virtual showings were typically reserved for second home purchasers, relocation clients, and out of town buyers. Now, everyday clients were asking to see listings through the eyes of their agent first rather than leaving the safety of their home.
What agents found through necessity was virtual showings didn’t inhibit the process but actually made it easier and safer. Buyers could preview homes and narrow their search from the comfort of their couch. Sellers were able to limit foot traffic in their home, reducing their risks as well. And agents could, if they recorded the showings, have a record that both they and their clients could return to as their home search progressed.
Virtual Showings are Here to Stay
The benefits of virtual home showings during the pandemic are obvious. But will this carry over after the threat has passed? We think so. Virtual showings can provide an enhanced consumer home search experience while providing many practical benefits, too. The first time an agent meets a potential can be risky, if they are unsure of the consumer’s intentions. Scheduling a virtual showing lets an agent move that initial meeting online, get to know their new client safely. Sellers, meanwhile, will enjoy having fewer strangers coming into their home.
Providing a better home buying experience for the consumer is the most important use case. Agents can deliver a true concierge experience, giving buyers the option of seeing homes and narrowing their search without ever leaving the comfort of their home. This is something the industry has not delivered on before this year.
Most home buyers will, of course, view homes in person before making a final decision to purchase. However, we are finally moving towards making that experience simple, safe, and enjoyable for consumers.
Looking for a professional way to conduct virtual showings? Download the HomeRover virtual showing app.