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Virtual Open Houses: What Are They Like?
Dated: December 29 2020
If you’re worried about attending an open house during a pandemic, you’re not alone: in-person showings have gone down 58.4% over the last few months. However, thanks to technology, homebuyers no longer have to be concerned about the risks of attending an open house.
Although virtual open houses and live streams might sound like a new, post-COVID concept, they’ve been gaining in popularity over the last few years. If you’ve been communicating with friends and family via Facetime throughout the last few months, or if you’ve used Zoom to connect with your co-workers while working remotely, you’re already halfway there.
A recent Nanos poll conducted on behalf of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) determined that nearly half of prospective homebuyers are open to buying a house virtually.
OREA President Sean Morrison says “consumers are adapting during this extraordinary time, and their willingness to embrace new tools tells us that the Canadian dream of homeownership remains strong, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Live-streamed open houses can help to highlight the features of a home that may not necessarily come across in traditional marketing materials, which is a bonus for prospective buyers. There may be features or functionality in certain rooms or areas of the house that wouldn’t be obvious in photos but might dazzle homebuyers during a live stream.
To find out which properties are offering virtual open houses, check with your real estate agent. They have access to the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, a private database of properties maintained by real estate professionals. Your agent will be able to provide you with information on any properties in which you are interested.
Your agent can also inquire about the home’s disclosures. These will list any of the home’s “material defects,” so you will know immediately if there are any potential issues that you may want to address. Ask your agent for a copy of the home’s floor plan or 3D virtual dollhouse tour. When you attend the virtual open house tour, it can help you get a better feel for the layout of the home.
When reading the listing description, take note of all the details, such as construction materials and heating and cooling systems, and make a list of the features available and what features you prefer. This kind of house-hunting checklist will enable you to compare the pros and cons of each property in which you’re interested so you can determine which ones are at the top of the list.
Finally, if you’re looking for a house in an area with which you’re unfamiliar, take a drive through to get an idea of what amenities are available nearby as well as a general sense of the neighbourhood. While you’re doing your research, don’t miss our neighbourhood videos outlining the best neighbourhood secrets.
Although virtual open houses offer the same benefits of an in-person showing, there are different “rules” for attending one. For example, unlike an in-person open house where you can arrive at any point during the open-house hours, a live-streaming virtual open house starts at a specific time. If attending the live stream isn’t offered or isn’t possible for you, you can also watch a recorded version at a later time.
You’ll want to make sure you are familiar with the software being utilized first and log in a few minutes before start time so you don’t miss any vital information because of technical difficulties. For some virtual open houses, you’ll just need a link, but others, such as Zoom, will require you to download an app to take part. If that’s the case, make sure you download that well in advance of the open house.
It will help to be somewhere that’s relatively quiet while you’re participating in the live stream. It’s a good idea to mute your microphone so your background noise doesn’t interfere. Your agent will provide details on how to ask questions during the live stream or ways to follow-up after. If questions are allowed, be mindful of unmuting your microphone to ask questions and then muting again afterward. This will help prevent disruptions for the other attendees.
Refer to your house-hunting checklist to jot down questions that you may want to ask your agent later. This can also prevent you from getting distracted during the open house and possibly miss important details.
If you’re interested in any of the homes you see, make sure to act quickly and follow up with your agent as soon as possible. Keep in mind that virtual open houses seem to increase interest in properties; there may be buyers ready to purchase before the home is even listed on the market. Virtual open houses, whether viewed on a live stream or a pre-recorded video, are poised to be the wave of the future in real estate, so don’t be afraid to embrace this new technology. It could mean the difference between finding the perfect property for you and your family or missing out on your dream home.
Be open-minded, be prepared, and happy house hunting!