How to Navigate Virtual Home Tours During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed homebuyers and renters to find different — and safer — ways of viewing potential homes. Enter the virtual house tour. While they’re not necessarily a new concept, virtual tours have become a common way for potential buyers to experience a home without ever stepping foot in it.
If you’re taking virtual home tour in the near future, here’s what you can expect.
What are virtual home tours?
If you’re unable to tour a potential home or apartment in person — whether due to COVID-19 or just because you live far away — realtors or property managers may offer to give a virtual tour. This tour will most likely be one of two kinds.
The first is a prerecorded walk-through of the home. This will give you an overview of the basic layout and highlights. These types of tours are often included with house listings, and they may feature staged furniture and decor.
While prerecorded tours are a good first step in seeing whether you’ll like the home, buyers will get more information from scheduling a guided tour as well. During these tours, someone will walk you through the home on a video call. Ask the guide conducting the tour to start the tour with walking up to the front entrance, including a 360 degree view of the surrounding area so you get a sense of the neighborhood. In addition to the interior viewing, don’t forget to tour the exterior of the property including the backyard, property, fencing, etc. This is more similar to a traditional home viewing — you can get an in-depth look at the property, ask questions, and experience the home in a live setting.
How to prepare for a virtual home tour
Before the home tour itself, it can be helpful to do a little homework to ensure it runs smoothly. First, ask the realtor for a floor plan of the home that you can reference during the tour. This will help you get an understanding of exactly what (and where) you’re looking at as you go through the house. Consider your timing, too: Request a tour when you’re sure you’ll have sunlight for the best possible visuals.
It’s also beneficial to discuss a contingency plan in case one or both sides experience technical problems. If you get disconnected, ask your guide to take a video of the property to send to you, and specify which areas you’d like them to focus on.
Questions to ask during a virtual tour
A virtual tour of a potential home or apartment is a valuable tool, but it doesn’t let you fully examine the space with all five senses. Don’t be wary of asking questions — and be prepared to take notes to reference after the tour. Here are several key things to ask your tour guide:
- What are the noise levels like, both inside and outside the home? Can you hear a nearby highway? Trains passing? A neighbor’s dog barking? Noise through shared walls (e.g. apartment, condo or townhouse)?
- Can you open the curtains/shades and show me the view from the window(s)?
- What direction is the natural light coming from?
- Can you open the cabinets, closets, and appliances to show the interior?
- How is the cell phone service? (Be sure to ask what phone carrier your guide uses.)
- Do any surfaces look worn or damaged?
- Are the appliances new?
- Have any repairs been done to the property?
You can also ask your guide to take additional photos both inside and outside the home to send to you after the tour.
Preparing your home for virtual home tours
On the other hand, if you’re selling your home, realtors may need to show it to prospective buyers via a virtual tour. It’s in your best interest to make the space look neat and move-in ready.
The first step is to clean thoroughly. Minimize clutter and put away anything that might distract viewers. Clean off counters, empty the sink, take photos off the fridge, pick up toys, and tuck away toiletries. Also check that all your light bulbs are working — for the tour, aim to turn on as many lights as possible.
If the tour is set to take place amid COVID-19 restrictions, make sure that anyone who enters your home takes proper precautions, such as wearing a face mask or gloves. You can also ask that guests sanitize any surfaces they may touch, including door knobs and cabinets, after the tour.
Best practices for in-person tours
After you’ve taken a virtual tour, you may still want to see the house or apartment in-person. After all, it’s a big commitment! At this stage, you can ask your realtor if it’s possible to tour the home — chances are they can arrange a solo viewing or a tour with protective gear.
As you prepare to view a home in person, use hand sanitizer before and after, and avoid touching surfaces while you’re inside. It’s also important to follow safety guidelines, such as wearing a face mask and remaining 6 feet away from others.
While the COVID-19 pandemic may have thrown the world for a loop, it’s still possible to safely buy or sell a home and get the excitement of touring new places. The next time a place online catches your eye, consider what it might look like through a different kind of screen.
And after you’ve found your new home, check out our Epic and First Apartment moving checklists to help you get and keep organized during the move process.