Property news: What to look out for on a virtual viewing if you’re a first time buyer

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The coronavirus pandemic put a lot of property plans on hold as Britons were told to stay home during the lockdown. But while the housing market has since reopened and made a surprising recovery from the break, some processes are having to change due to social distancing measures. The government is advising that any first viewings of properties should be done virtually in order to reduce the risk. 

“It has been estimated that around 450,000 people had to put their property plans on hold due to the outbreak of coronavirus,” explained Lucy Mullins, co-founder and COO at StepLadder, a start-up helping young buyers get onto the property ladder. 

The expert believes that first time buyers will be especially keen to get back on the search. 

“The government’s decision to reopen the real estate sector will have come as welcome news to most, but it will have been especially celebrated by the millions of struggling first time buyers out there, with the outbreak forcing many to extend their stays in expensive rental properties or move back in with parents. 

“Many first-time buyers were forced to put their plans on hold and are only just now able to complete sales.”

With news that the UK economy is now in a deep recession, first time buyers might be keen to try and take advantage of house prices if they drop. 

But while more seasoned property owners may know what to look out for on a first viewing, first-time buyers may find the experience harder now that it’s done online. 

So what should buyers be looking for when they book a virtual property viewing? 

Lucy has shared a few pointers for inexperienced buyers to help make the experience as informative as possible. 

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Check every room 

“This should almost go without saying – but check every room thoroughly,” advised Lucy. 

“Just as you wouldn’t conduct a physical property viewing without examining every room, the rules don’t change just because you’ve entered the digital world.”

Don’t feel like you need to rush just because you’re watching from afar, either.  

“Industry data shows that those aged 18-34 spend an average of 49 minutes viewing a property, increasing to 53 minutes for first-time buyers, so you should spend at least this much time viewing the property virtually,” added Lucy. 

“With a virtual viewing, you’ll likely be able to spend more time looking at the property than you would in person, so be sure to make the most of it. Using the floorplan in close combination with the walkthrough will help you do this.”

Don’t be fooled by photos

“Always check for a timestamp on the photos, floor plan and virtual tour,” warned Lucy. 

“Natural light in particular can create optical illusions, and often estate agents will use old photos and floor plans from years ago.

“You don’t want to be disappointed by agreeing to a purchase based on out of date pictures.

You can also use other technology to get a good look at the outside and the surrounding street, too. 

“It’s good to start your walk-through from the street, for instance using Google Maps in tandem with the virtual viewing, to get a sense of the property exterior too,” recommended Lucy.

Know your measurements 

“One thing that often isn’t talked about is the scale of mismeasurement in the property sector, and you should always check that the measurement data provided in the floorplan is accurate,” Lucy advised. 

“One way to get a sense for this is to look at who provides the floorplan – for example, is it provided by the estate agent or a third party?

“If the floorplan comes from the estate agent themselves, then there’s a chance that they might not be accurate or out of date. 

“Check if the floorplan has been created by a RICS Certified Property Measurer, as this will provide the best indication of if the data is accurate.”

Recreate the space 

“Even with the best virtual viewing technology in the world, it can be hard to get a true sense for what the room will be like in reality,” explained Lucy. 

The expert warned against relying on your imagination to picture what a 12-foot room might look like. 

“It’s very important to recreate spatial dimensions to give yourself all the information you need to make an informed decision,” the expert added. 

“You can do this in your current property by using measuring sticks and masking tape to map out key footprints such as countertops, hall widths and door angles. 

“If you want to go a step further, you could move the furniture that you plan to take with you into your recreated room. This will give you a head start on interior design.”

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