There is clearly a sudden drop in the demands of buying new properties. But there are still those who have an urgent need to move to a new place—either they buy a new home or they rent one. But with social distancing limiting gatherings and events, house viewing has moved to a whole new level—online home tour, video chat home tour, tour using robots, and self-tours.
During the first weeks of the month of March, a real estate listing website called Zillow, has seen a 191% increase in virtual home tours compared to February. 3D Home tour has become a hit even before the coronavirus impacted the real estate markets with 50% more users and homes getting sold 10% faster on average.
On the other hand, real estate brokerage called Redfin, experienced a 494% increase in agent-led remote home tour requests via video since two weeks ago. Last week, the request for video-chat tours from Redfin.com increased to 18.9% from what was 0.2% only when the month began. That is a whopping 94 times increase for March.
The demand for digital lockboxes by Rently, which enables someone to tour an empty house by his own, has also gone high. Using a credit card, individuals can register their information online, and they can then get a one-time passcode once they show up their smartphone and valid ID to the front door of the house they wish to tour by themselves. Based on the data, there is a 30% increase in self-tours just for the month of March—that is anticipated 197,964 self-tours to facilitate.
“That’s really helping now with the COVID-19 because property managers and those that are selling properties can still place people in homes even when an agent can’t meet them at the property,” says the CEO of Rently, Merrick Lackner. “We don’t know how long this social distancing will stay in place, but with rates coming down the way they have, we’re probably going to see another homebuying surge, and if agents can’t meet to show those properties for sale, they can still be purchased with potential buyers seeing them on their own.”
Real estate operators have also ordered devices from Rently increasing its sales which almost tripled in just the second week of March. That was more than 1,500 units sent out for delivery. Rently works with big names in the real estate industry like Brookfield, American Homes 4 Rent, and Pegasus Residential.
“Our shipping center, as an essential service, has stayed open, and we have added more shipping and receiving hires to facilitate the outbound shipments,” Lackner added.
Another provider of real estate solutions, Zenplace, uses robots to tour interested buyers virtually into a property. A buyer can talk with a real estate agent in a video chat through the robots screen.
“We saw unprecedented demand for our platform across 35+ states, across both large urban areas that have been most affected, to smaller cities where people are practicing increased social distancing,” Zenplace spokesperson, Jason Green.
Since earlier this month, the company has also experienced an increase of 293% for its self-tour services and a 278% increase for its remote tour via 3D and online.
While the demand for self-service tours and online virtual tours has a sudden surge this month, this does not actually mean a quick change of preference. According to the Capital Economics recent analysis, there will be an expected 35% drop of home sales ths spring season. However, the demand in the rental market may increase because people who have initially thought about buying a house may shift their decisions and reassess after this COVID-19 pandemic.
Clearly, social distancing has a big impact on the real estate markets not just in the middle of this pandemic but also even after it has passed. It will never be the same again in the coming future as options for real estate operations have increased. As reported by homebuilders and real estate agents based on their personal experiences, individuals who are out inquiring now despite the current situation are the most likely serious buyers, which caused a higher sales rate.