If you’ve been perusing real-estate listings while holed up in your self-quarantine, you’ve probably noticed an increasing number of them advertising virtual walk-throughs, and even virtual open houses. One big reason: Bright MLS—the service that Washington agents use to list homes online—has temporarily loosened its requirement that properties must be shown in-person to remain on the market. The rule change is, of course, a reaction to safety concerns amid rising Covid-19 cases.
Though most agents are still offering in-person showings, too—albeit with precautions in place, such as limiting the number of people allowed into a house at once—many are taking advantage of the technology available to lessen the risks of coronavirus.
Compass agent Dana Rice hosted an online open house on Sunday, in which she live-streamed her listing for an hour, and took questions from prospective buyers in real time. She and her husband (her cameraman) were the only two people actually on premises. A recording of the open house is now posted to her social media.
“This is a house that should’ve been under contract immediately, but given the [circumstances], it just isn’t,” says Rice. “Doing that virtual open house allowed me to create content that now has been accessed dozens of times since.”
On Tuesday, Rice did a virtual showing via FaceTime, and on Wednesday, she went to another agent’s listing—a vacant house—and made a video of it for one of her buyer-clients. In the current climate, such videos, says Rice, allow clients “to do their due diligence” before deciding to visit a listing in-person.
Long & Foster agent Kathleen Chovnick, who works mostly in Loudoun County, collaborated with clients last week to make a video tour of their home. Even Chovnick didn’t have to set foot inside, since the husband did all the camerawork. She published the result on Facebook and Instagram, where she’s advertising it as a “virtual open house”.
“We knew we needed to keep marketing. We had had a lot of really good traffic through the house,” says Chovnick. “But then when this all happened, it kind of came to a halt, and we wanted to keep the momentum going.”
Other parts of the buying process are also changing. Agents say these days, home inspections typically happen without anyone other than the inspector present. Inspectors have been filming and photographing the process so they can show clients what they uncover.
Up next, predicts Rice: Buyers writing contracts on houses that are contingent on a physical visit at a later date. She hasn’t seen that happen yet, she says, “but it’s coming.”