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Virtual Showings: 7 Tips for Homebuyers

Would you buy a home without seeing it first? A surprising number of homebuyers may have during the pandemic. An April survey of Realtors® found that 25% of those polled had a client who put a home under contract without visiting it in person. This trend is creating a growing demand for “virtual showings,” which allow buyers to take a live video tour of a home and social distance.

This approach also involves risks as video can only capture so much. With that in mind, here’s a roundup of tips that may protect you if you buy remotely based on virtual showings.

1. Work with an experienced real estate agent

Partner with a veteran agent who’s familiar with remote homebuying and the area you’re looking in. As Motely Fool’s Millionacres explains, his or her experience may go a long way if there are any red flags about a property or the buying process.

2. Arrange a private showing

Schedule private virtual showings with your agent in a format that will allow you to ask questions in real time, like Zoom, or a video call. This will give you a chance to see indoor and outdoor spaces that may not be in a home’s listing online. On that note, beware of pre-recorded video tours that sellers or agents post. As U.S. News & World Report notes, these videos are designed to sell a house, not show weaknesses.

3. Ask about odors and sounds

U.S. News also recommends inquiring about sounds or smells that may be present. Your agent can signal if a room smells musty or like cigarettes, or if there’s a noisy neighbor or a lot of traffic noise in the yard, for instance.

4. Read sellers’ disclosures before virtual showings

Money Magazine highlights the importance of checking sellers’ disclosures when buying remotely. Disclosures identify known problems and your agent can film areas of concern.

5. Tour the neighborhood

Arrange a livestream of the home’s neighborhood if you don’t drive through. If that’s not an option, Seth Lejeune, an agent interviewed by Money, also recommends using Google Street View.

6. Confirm that spaces are as big as they look

Double-check that rooms, ceiling heights, and yards are as big as they appear during the virtual showing. Both U.S. News and Point2, a real estate trends site, note that areas like this can be hard to gauge on video. In addition, Point2 warns that wide angle lenses and 360o videos, often used in pre-recorded video tours and photos, can make spaces seem larger.

7. Add contingencies to offers and get a home inspection

If you do make an offer following a virtual showing, Money Magazine encourages adding contingencies to your contract for added security. Many contracts are contingent on homes passing inspection or repairs being made, and home inspections are highly recommended, especially if you buy virtually.