Buying a property from a virtual inspection
Travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders haven't stopped people buying property. We spoke with an agent who's sold multiple homes based on virtual inspections for her tips for buyers.
Lockdown restrictions didn't stop property inspections but did change the way we do them. With travel restrictions and social distancing measures, agents and buyers used technology to adapt.
Georgia Cleary at BradfieldCleary has sold multiple Sydney properties to buyers who have never set eyes on their new homes. She says that some buyers are unphased by the prospect of virtual inspections.
What's the rush?
Given the risks, why aren't buyers waiting for restrictions to lift? Georgia sees two common motivations for buyers now: personal need and fear of being left behind in a changing market.
"Much of the time it just comes down to personal circumstances. For example, I recently made a sale to someone who was moving to Sydney from overseas. They wanted to be in their home by the time their new job started, so buying based on a virtual inspection was necessary for them," she says.
That's a pretty specific circumstance – unlike property value growth which, in most of Australia's capitals at least, is widespread.
"Everyone has seen what's happened in the last 12 months. Prices have moved so much, especially after we came out of the last lockdown. So, people want to buy now in case prices go up even more," says Georgia.
"We're anticipating that lockdown restrictions will ease at a time that's traditionally strong for the market. But if there's a lot of stock, then then it's possible prices might not move up so much. That just depends on how many sellers will enter the market when lockdown lifts."
Here are Georgia's tips for making the most of virtual property inspections.
1) Be in control
While property videos have become a mainstay on many real estate websites, they can't beat a one-on-one Facetime or Zoom walk through of a property with the agent.
The videos tend to be very polished – they scan the rooms and show the property in its very best light. They are more of an overview," Georgia says. "With a Facetime inspection, the buyer is much more in control."
This is particularly true when the inspection is for only one buyer at a time, rather than an open virtual inspection. For any property you think has potential, phone the agent and request a one-on-one virtual inspection.
"They can ask me to stop and turn around, open cupboards, look out windows, check the ceiling," says Georgia. "Done well and thoroughly, it can be a very successful way of inspecting a property."
2) Know your must-haves
"For people who know exactly what boxes they want to tick in terms of location or particular features, a virtual inspection can quickly and efficiently help them narrow their preferences," says Georgia.
Must have space for an extra-wide oven? Need a curbless walk-in shower with space to manoeuvre? Make a checklist of your must-haves and have-to-knows, and you'll be able to direct the agent to just what you need to see.
This efficiency, Georgia predicts, means virtual property inspections have plenty of potential to continue post-lockdown.
"It's far more efficient and cost effective," says Georgia. "Even if an in-person inspection is made before the final decision, I can see virtual inspections remaining a useful way to at least create a shortlist of properties."
3) Enlist local eyes or big tech tools
There are, unsurprisingly, potential pitfalls with buying a property sight unseen. And some of these can't be renovated away.
"You don't get to see how the neighbours' properties look or what the streetscape is like," says Georgia. "And you don't get a sense of the noise of the location – are there kids playing in the pool next door? Does the traffic sound closer than you'd like?"
When possible, Georgia says, people often send a friend or family member to check out the property on their behalf. When this isn't possible, she encourages buyers to check Google Street View and Google Earth.
"There are so many ways to gather information now," she says. "If someone wants to know what condition the roof is in, or how much street greenery there is, Google Earth is a great resource."
Georgia's final tip for prospective buyers looking to make a decision sight unseen?
"Control the virtual inspection as much as possible and ask lots of questions."
Before you start inspections, virtual or in-person, speak with an expert about finance pre-approval.
The views expressed in this article do not constitute professional advice. When purchasing a property by virtual inspection, you should consider seeking independent advice such as a property or building inspector to make an informed choice that suits your own circumstances.