In spite of the pandemic, with its lockdown restrictions and sheltering in place measures, many of us are still planning on prospecting the market and buying a home. Luckily, virtual tours are becoming more common, and they can help you view a property before buying. But can they replace actual home viewings? Here are the 7 things a virtual tour won’t show you.
Actual Property Size
The only way to get a real feel for how big a house or an apartment is to physically visit it. Even with floor plans and a 360° video tour of the house, you might fall short of determining the actual size of the property. Wide angle lenses, for instance, can easily create the illusion of space, making it look bigger than it really is. Also, you won’t be able to determine the height of the ceiling, the way the furniture impacts the size of the room, or the scale of some amenities.
Even if you come across virtual tours that include a glimpse into the driveway, that’s not enough to tell you what the neighborhood you’re moving into will be like. Are the neighboring houses in good condition? Does the neighborhood have a friendly vibe? Will you be paired with some noisy next door neighbors? A bad neighborhood can ruin your experience of living in your new home, and can be a real deal breaker. And while a virtual tour will show you what the inside of your future home is like, visiting it in person is a must.
Whether you’re buying a house or an apartment, it’s important to assess the building condition from the outside. You might be put off by a dark hallway, a dodgy elevator, or a backyard and driveway that are in serious need of repairs. You might also be missing out on potential structural damage to the house, such as broken support beams or roof, water damage, and even pest infestations. Even if you find a home that ticks all the boxes, it’s important to arrange an inspection before signing the contract, or you might have unpleasant surprises further down the line.
Although not necessarily a make-or-break detail, small flaws in your future home could mount up to become unwanted expenses in the future. Virtual tours won’t pick up on cracks in the wall, chipped tiles and mirrors, scratched surfaces, discolored walls and flooring, or even old appliances that look good on the screen. Home inspectors will often discard them as well, so it’s up to the homebuyer to make sure that the house is up to scratch — or rather, scratch-free. Don’t forget that you can also use such defects to your advantage when negotiating the price. If you can’t see the house in person, you’re being stripped of this essential leverage when dealing with the seller.
A virtual tour might aim to give you a sanitized and stylized view of your future home. And while the layout, design and amenities might be appealing, the way a house smells also determines the closing of a sale. After all, a real estate trick is to bake something before a viewing, to create a homely feel that will entice buyers. A video, however, will fail to convey whether the building has plumbing issues that result in bad odors, whether pet damage has resulted in lasting smells, whether the walls smell of cooking, cigarette smoke, or even just that ‘old house smell’.
Just like smells, the way a house is lit can be the kind of small detail that will come back to haunt you after you’ve moved in. Artificial lighting can easily set the mood and make a house look brighter than in reality, but let’s face it, you’re not going to keep it on all the time. It’s also important to visit the property in person to see if there is anything nearby that could obstruct natural light, such as a tall building, or even a tree. The way a house is positioned also counts. North-facing houses are naturally darker and cooler, while those facing south or west are brighter, but also hotter in summer.
A Feel for the Seller
Often overlooked, one key detail virtual tours fail to convey is a proper feel for the person selling the property. It’s not uncommon for homebuyers to decide against buying an otherwise stunning home, simply because they get a bad feeling about the seller, or even their agent. Being able to interact in person with the seller not only helps build a relationship of trust, but can help negotiate the price. So even if you’re sold on your future dream home after a virtual tour, make sure that you and the owner close the deal face to face.