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Home buyers are embracing being able to visit homes for sale online, says Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage.
“The most visited real estate website in the country is realtor.ca, which is owned by the industry overall, and the most-visited corporate real estate website is royallepage.ca,” says Soper. “If you look back to the beginning of April, we had 10 or 20 virtual open houses listed on royallepage.ca and last week we had 1,000, so the technology that was rolled out by the Canadian Real Estate Association and the real big real estate companies in the country really does a pretty effective job of giving people a feel for whether a property is a fit or not.”
Virtual tours online have been around for a number of years, using specialized equipment or the very basic ones using the video function of phone cameras, but the new technology is different, says Soper.
“The difference between a virtual showing, or a virtual open house and a computer-generated tour is they are interactive, like the Zoom calls we’ve become used to,” he says. “The realtor is in the home alone and the clients are basically lined up. They don’t see each other but they’re lined up and they can pose questions, such as ‘can you give me a view out the back window from the secondary bedroom,’ because they’ve heard there’s a busy road nearby and they actually want to see it out the window. They get that view and they may say ‘this won’t work for us’ or they may say, ‘it’s not so bad.’ ”
The stay-at-home measures brought on by the COVID-19 fear actually contributed to the technological improvement.
“If we go back to the middle of March, we had much less of an understanding than we do now as to how to keep safe,” says Soper. “The fact is, looking for a home online is much, much safer than most of the other activities that we’re doing, such as going to the grocery store.”
Few deals will be sealed solely by an online visit, but the visit lays the groundwork, says Soper.
“They still are very unlikely to make a transaction without a site visit, call it the verification visit, but a site visit is something that most people prefer, unless they’re investors. Most investors can look at numbers and rent proformas from tenants and things and feel more comfortable making a decision. They also still prefer site visits, but some will make a transaction based on the math,” he says. “Homes are an investment, but also an emotional decision so families do want to see the property. But now, when they go, they’ve already looked at all the features and asked all the questions and they’ve done all that virtually and now they’re at the stage where they’re verifying prior to a firm offer. Sometimes an offer will be made before that confirmation visit, depending on the competitive nature of the property, if it’s well-priced in a popular neighbourhood and a popular type of home.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020