Remote purchase: Can you buy a house you haven’t visited?

March 2021 : City AM

Since the start of the Covid crisis, there has been a lot of talk about remote purchase as a solution to limitations on movement. Some hoped that virtual viewings and remote purchases would be a lifeline to the industry under lockdown and beyond.

At Aykroyd & Co, we have had some significant successes with remote purchases and virtual viewings, employing online viewings among other digital tools, however, for us to feel comfortable advising a client to purchase a property we would always physically view it ourselves. Here are a few simple things to keep in mind to help acquire a property remotely.

Research

The first key to a successful remote purchase is a great deal of research. Ordinarily, after taking a detailed brief from a new client, our team calls round our extensive contact base to find about 30-50 properties both on, and off-market. We then preview these properties on behalf of the client.

This research complete, we then report to the client and discuss these on a call together to whittle the wider list down to about eight to ten. Two of the team then take the client to view the shortlist, usually over a single day. This process works so well that most clients find their property of choice on that first tour. It is a hugely time-efficient process for our clients, if not for us.

Due to Covid, we now have several London-based clients who are no longer comfortable going on viewings and our international clients are waiting for the borders to open without the need to quarantine.

As a consequence, more than ever we are required to do the groundwork for them and ultimately provide a really tight list of possibles so that they can simply swoop in at the end to see their top three choices. Sometimes, this is in person but we have completed a number of purchases where the clients have not even been able to physically view a property. For us as a team to feel comfortable with a client purchasing remotely, this means even more research and attention to detail than ever before.

Virtual viewings

Key to a successful virtual viewing is our ability to tour a property in person, bringing the client virtually alongside us. Once inside the property, we focus on providing a quality video experience.

The crucial word here is ‘quality’. A shaky shambolic wander around the property will not do. Videos must be done in proper light, and they must give a detailed and accurate sense of even the smallest aspects of the property.

We always look inside cabinets, out of bedroom windows, into courtyards – everything but under the bed. Another reason we prefer to do these live, when we are in the property, is to give the client the opportunity to ask to see the interior of a wardrobe, the ceiling of a bathroom, and so forth. In our experience, it is absolutely vital to the success of this process that clients have a trusted advisor they can rely on to protect their best interests. In most cases an abstract online viewing simply can’t provide enough trustworthy information for clients to feel comfortable committing to a purchase.

Limitations 

A virtual property market is no panacea. While Zoom and WhatsApp have helped many businesses transition to a virtual workplace, the property market is different as the transactions are both personal and substantial. We have always maintained that property is a relationship business. Property deals are often highly emotional – even for investors – and trust between parties is key to getting things done. A buyer has to be extremely motivated to purchase a property from afar, without meeting us.

Remote purchases and virtual viewings are helpful for maintaining existing relationships and completing transactions, but ultimately there is no substitute for getting real people into real rooms.

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