How to Buy a Home Using Virtual Showings

Although it's convenient to be able to search for a home online, seeing a house through your screen is much different than experiencing the house in person. But the next best thing is a virtual showing and they're extremely helpful for out-of-town homebuyers.

What Is a Virtual House Showing?

A virtual house showing is an online walk-through that allows potential homebuyers to digitally travel through the property without physically being there. Depending on the platform being used, here are the types of virtual home tours:

  • Real-Time Video Showing: This type of home showing is performed live between the realtor and buyer using a streaming technology such as FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Zoom.
  • Recorded Video Showing: This type of home showing uses pre-recorded videos that can be shared and viewed using a video hosting platform like YouTube.
  • 3-D Tour: This type of home showing is created by the realtor using a virtual tour service or program in which buyers can click their way through a home while accessing 360-degree views of the property.

Virtual tours are a great tool that you can use to learn more about a home before you are able to actually see it in person. If you're hesitant about virtual house showings don't worry, Amy Stockberger Real Estate (ASRE) is here with tips to minimize your risk if you're buying a home sight unseen.

Get the Floor Plan

You aren't physically at the home to walk through it so getting the floor plan before a virtual showing can help you become more familiar with the property. By referencing the floor plan while you digitally move through the house, it will give you a better sense of the dimensions, layout, and general flow of the home from room to room. The floor plan also works as a great checklist to ensure you and your realtor have covered every part of the house.

Prepare Your Technology

You wouldn't show up late to an in-person house showing so make sure all of your technology is working properly before your virtual tour to avoid any delays. If you are doing a real-time video showing with your realtor there are a few things you should check:

  • Make sure the battery on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop is fully charged.
  • Ensure you have a reliable Internet or Wi-Fi connection to prevent any interruptions.
  • Test the invite link provided by your agent for a virtual showing via Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom.

Not only can technical glitches cause headaches during a virtual showing, but they can also be distracting. Nothing can steal your focus quicker than a slow Internet connection and with such a big decision at hand it's important to limit distractions.

Virtually Explore the Neighborhood

When searching for a home online it's important to research the neighborhood because you won't just be moving into a new home, you'll be moving into a new community as well. Google Maps can be an invaluable tool for learning which coffee shops, restaurants, and retail stores are nearby, and the Google Street View feature will give you a better feel for the area. You can view the surrounding houses and discover any unfavorable aspects such as a neighbor's unattended landscape or power lines hanging over the property. In fact, you can do this prior to the scheduled, virtual tour with your realtor. That way, if you do happen to see anything concerning you can have your questions ready to go.

Ask the Important Questions

Viewing a home through your screen of choice only tells half the story. Since you aren't there in person to touch the cabinets and countertops, test the appliances, or experience the height of a ceiling, so asking the right questions during a virtual home tour is crucial.

  • How old is the roof, air conditioner, furnace, and water heater?
  • What finishes/materials were used in the kitchen, bathroom, etc.?
  • What are the brand names of the appliances and how old are they?
  • When were the windows last replaced?
  • Are there any unusual odors or noise levels to be concerned about?

Be sure to ask questions about secondary rooms such as the laundry room, garage, and storage areas, and don't forget to view the outdoor spaces to get an idea about the curb appeal of the property. A picture (or video) can be worth a thousand words, but sometimes they aren't the right words so it's important to ask the proper questions during a virtual home tour.

Request the Recorded Video

If you are conducting a real-time video showing with your realtor make sure the tour will be recorded so you can refer back to the footage when it comes time to decide on a new house. That way you can relive your first impression of the home for a second and third time, allowing you to make a more informed decision. Rewatching the virtual tour can even bring up more questions that you may have forgotten to ask during the initial showing.

You may not be dealing with a trusted realtor like ASRE so it's okay to be skeptical during a virtual home tour. If you really like the property, but you're a little reluctant about making an offer on a house without seeing it in person, have some contingencies in place to protect yourself. Make the offer dependent on a home inspection. This will give you an out if the professional inspection does happen to uncover a major issue with the house.