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TBS in the FT – Property sales go virtual to work around Covid-19

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Knight Frank
London and Country specialist property buying agents
14 Apr 2020  |   Jonathan Bramwell

Viewings are impossible under lockdown but 3D tours, drones and phones are helping.

The use of virtual tours, where buyers can navigate their way through a home using 3D images, is on the rise. During the first two weeks in March, Zoopla recorded a 215 per cent increase in visitors who viewed new-build homes virtually. Many in the property industry are investing in the new technology. Since the beginning of March, sales of Matterport’s 3D cameras have jumped 630 per cent. 

Virtual solutions are proving essential to keep transactions on track while the coronavirus pandemic renders face-to-face meetings impossible.  Using a platform such as Matterport, buyers can view the home on a mobile phone or computer, from various vantage points, marked by circles on the floor, from which they can pivot through 360-degree angles and click on points of interest for more information. Until now, such technology has been regarded as a gimmick, particularly useful for super-prime properties likely to attract overseas and foreign buyers.

Whether the enthusiasm for virtual viewings will have any lasting impact on the way we buy and sell homes once the shutdown is over is hard to tell. According to Guy Bradshaw, from UK Sotheby’s International Realty, it could change the industry in some fundamental ways. “If people get used to virtual working, perhaps this could signal the end of the ‘shopfront’ requirement,” he says. For the time being, agents say that while a virtual tour will motivate buyers, it will not close the deal. 

Jonathan Bramwell, Head of The Buying Solution, shares a cautionary note: “There are certain aspects you simply can’t capture on camera — the feeling that space gives you is the primary reason for choosing a home and you really have to see it to feel that.”

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