There’s a saying that goes, “every dark cloud has a silver lining”. In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, it can be said that the silver lining is that the digitalisation of various industries has been largely accelerated.
Different industries have adapted to going digital in their own ways, with some benefitting more than others as they had already gotten a head start even before the pandemic, like F&B and retail.
For others, like the property market, it’s still a matter of trial and error although it appears to be going in the right direction with virtual tours.
Due to the movement control orders (MCO) and general precaution from the public, real estate negotiators and agents have gone digital, carrying out all types of property transactions without even having to meet their clients.
Vivahomes real estate negotiator Haniza Hadi told Property Advisor that going virtual has its pros and cons but in general, an online property transaction in the new norm is not that much different from pre-Covid days.
“For new projects, it is familiar ground as certain developers had already provided a virtual tour option besides having dedicated sales galleries. The e-brochures are all readily available as well. For subsale properties, it is a bit tricky, but still doable.”A high-quality camera is a must in selling subsale properties. Since photos and videos are the only references that potential buyers have, it is important to capture as many details as possible, so that the buyer will not feel cheated when they view the actual property.
From the exterior to the front door to each individual room in the house, agents must be as thorough as possible.
“Every agent has their individual style of taking videos of the property. Some do a walk-through, others stand in the middle of a room and take a 360 degree video.
“It’s all up to their own creativity. What’s important is that potential buyers can get a clear picture of the house’s layout.”
Other than the property’s interiors, agents will usually take a video of the surrounding areas within a two-kilometre radius.
“Normally, potential buyers are already familiar with the neighbourhood, so a virtual tour of the whole neighbourhood is not necessary.
“After all, the potential buyer can personally visit the neighbourhood and drive around to explore nearby facilities and amenities,” she explained.
For subsale properties, an agent will also create a detailed presentation that includes the layout of the house, the exact measurements, as well as recent transactions in the area.
No stone is left unturned, to make up for the fact that the client cannot physically be present at the house.
“Absolute transparency is key to virtual sales. If your presentation is complete, as are all the required documents, it is usually enough to close the deal,” says Haniza.
One of the plus points of virtual viewings is that it is time-saving. For new projects, developers can even save on building a model unit. Agents can negotiate with more clients in a day, not to mention less travelling.
Of course, if a client wants to see the property in person, it can be arranged easily.
“We can produce an offer letter for the client, which can then be used for inter-district or even inter-state travel. Even during the full MCO, potential buyers were given permission to travel and view properties in person.
“No matter how high-definition the photos and videos are, nothing beats seeing it with your own eyes, especially if it’s a subsale property.”
This new norm in property transactions also acts as an automatic filter to gauge a buyer’s interest. Since the MCO makes it slightly more difficult to move around, a client’s willingness to go through the trouble to view the property with their own eyes is a good indication of how interested they are in purchasing it.
On the flip side, the difficulty in viewing the actual property can have the opposite effect and turn off clients who would otherwise be interested in purchasing the property.
With digital manipulation everywhere – from airbrushed models to food advertisements – it is no surprise that some may doubt how genuine the photos and videos are.
After all, just a change of lighting can make a world of difference, observes Haniza. Sometimes, the actual property may look slightly different from the photos, leading to misunderstandings.
“At the end of the day, virtual tours are just another medium. It all depends on the property itself as well as the buyer’s own intentions and financial ability.
“Like traditional transactions, property type, location, facilities and other criteria on the client’s personal checklist still play a huge role.
“Whether it is carried out virtually or through whatever technology we may use in the future, if a property does not fit the clients’ needs, we cannot convince them to buy it.”
Haniza elaborated that the current conditions are what popularised virtual transactions, not because they are any better than traditional transactions.
“The pandemic has sped up the evolution and digitalisation of the property market. Even after the worst of the pandemic is over, this practice is likely to be continued. We now live in a new norm, and so we must adapt accordingly.”
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