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Real estate companies report spike of demand for virtual home showings

Some have seen the demand increase by triple digits

As more people are urged to stay home due to the coronavirus, many are still proving that they are interested in purchasing a home.

Although many real estate companies have paused home showings, the desire for digital home showings have risen rapidly.

In a new report from Redfin, the brokerage said it saw a 494% increase in requests for agent-led video home tours last week alone. As of Sunday, 18.9% of its tour requests from Redfin.com were video-chat tour requests, which was up from 0.2% at the beginning of March, a 94-fold increase, the company said.

“The future of real estate has come earlier than any of us could have anticipated,” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said in a statement. “The way things are during the pandemic won’t last forever, but at the end of all this, things won’t go back to the way they were either. We hope we’re well prepared.”

Redfin announced last week that it would be suspending open houses and would move to a virtual home showing environment.

“During video tours, I become the eye of the buyer,” Indianapolis Redfin agent Jill Thompson said in a statement. “I’m talking more than I would on a traditional tour, pointing out things that would be obvious in-person but that aren’t as clear through a camera lens, like the quality of workmanship on any repairs or whether or not a room would fit a king-size bed.”

Zillow, which also recently announced it was pressing pause on its iBuying platform, said it has seen a dramatic increase in its 3D home tours as well.

Last week, Zillow said it saw a 191% increase in the creation of 3D home tours, and a jump of 326% on Friday, when compared with the average number of tours created in February.

Based on data collected before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Zillow listings including a 3D Home tour were saved by users 50% more, and those homes sold on average 10% faster.

“This is an unprecedented time and there certainly are people who still need to buy, sell or rent a home as they navigate public health orders and social distancing requirements,” Zillow spokesperson Matt Kreamer said to HousingWire. “We’re excited to see our free tools are helping that effort as we all work to flatten the curve.”

Jay Papasan, vice president of learning at Keller Williams, told HousingWire that offering 3D virtual tours and scheduling live virtual houses is a key solution for agents during this time.

“Once a novelty, virtual home tours are rapidly becoming the norm in many markets,” Papasan said. “And, the spikes in virtual home tour activities in any given area seems to depend on the strictness of local COVID-19 ordinances is what we’re finding. In the most strict, the sellers themselves serve as camera operators while the agents and buyers watch online.”

“In most areas, agents are able to host virtual tours on their phones with common video conference apps,” Papasan continued. “Buyers can then ask questions and direct the camera to areas of interest.”

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