Property viewings during coronavirus lockdown: surge in virtual viewings and live “walk-through” video tours

Coronavirus may have brought London’s property market to a standstill — but it has not killed it off altogether.

The sector’s professional body ARLA Propertymark has been told estate agents do not count as “essential businesses” and should close their offices immediately.

Physical viewings and house moves are also banned following Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement on Monday.

But online viewing activity is starting to surge as millions of stay-at-home workers make use of the extra time at their disposal by browsing property portals, in the same way that they do in the days after Christmas.

Huge leaps in virtual viewing technology have made it far easier for potential buyers or tenants to be given remarkably realistic “walk-through” tours of properties.

James Morris-Manuel, vice-president of 3D virtual viewing tech company Matterport, which is used by London agents such as Foxtons, Strutt & Parker and Winkworth, said requests for its property scanning service have soared more than sevenfold over the past week.

Actual completed scans, which include features such as allowing viewers to take accurate measurements of rooms, are up by more than 80 per cent.

He said: “People have suddenly realised they need to digitise assets they may not be able to access for quite a while. The UK market was watching Spain and Italy and realised that shutdowns and more aggressive forms of social distancing were coming soon and they needed to get their house in order.”

Guy Gittins, managing director of London agents Chestertons, said: “With most people being responsible and practising social distancing, we have seen a surge in the number of virtual viewings that we are conducting.

“By planning ahead, we managed to get video walk-throughs recorded for many of the properties we are marketing before the lockdown but we are also now asking landlords and sellers to use video conferencing tools to conduct live virtual viewings in their own property, with the agent talking the interested buyer or tenant through the property.”

He said the firm recently sold a four-bedroom house in East Sheen to a Dubai-based family for £1.5 million. The buyers committed to the purchase without visiting the property and only seeing it through a virtual viewing.

He added: “The current situation has obviously had a massive impact on activity levels in the property market, but the levels of interest remain almost undiminished with our web searches and requests for information not too far below what we would be expecting at this time of year.”​

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