It was just over a month ago that real estate tech company Redfin announced it would be suspending open houses in response to COVID-19, but now the company has launched a program for homebuyers to tour homes on their own.
Direct Access will allow potential homebuyers to use the Redfin app to unlock doors and tour available homes without an agent.
With Direct Access, homebuyers are allowed to unlock the door of a participating home any day of the week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Redfin said it requires all buyers to verify their identity prior to self-touring homes and uses technology to monitor touring activity, among other safety and security measures for the program.
In accordance with social distancing guidelines, listings with Direct Access are professionally cleaned and sanitized at least twice a week and more frequently if they experience a high volume of tours on a particular day, Redfin said, but also encourages visitors to limit tours to one group at a time and avoid frequently touched surfaces.
Originally launched on March 27, the solution is now available in Austin, Texas; Dallas; Houston; Inland Empire, California; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Orange County, California; Palm Springs, California; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego; Santa Barbara, California and Ventura County, California. Redfin said that it plans to launch in Phoenix and other markets in early May.
Although Direct Access was offered to RedfinNow users last year, the company was already building this self-service feature for its brokerage customers selling homes and accelerated the launch to help buyers and sellers stay safe while social-distancing measures are in effect.
“We always knew buyers would like the convenience of self-touring, but it also happens to be the safest way to get into a home in an era of social distancing,” said Redfin Chief Technology Officer Bridget Frey. “Just as video chats are replacing family gatherings, Direct Access and smart locks can replace the need for a real estate agent to drive to a home and open the door for you.”
According to Redfin, requests for agent-led video-chat tours were up 350% last week from the same period a month ago. Video-chat tours also represent about one-third of Redfin’s home tour demand, up from less than 1% at the beginning of March. As of April 19, Redfin said that views of virtual walkthroughs on its website have increased by nearly 300% since the beginning of March.
While video tours are becoming more popular, Redfin said that out of the offers signed last week, one in seven were signed by customers who had toured the home they made an offer on via video, up from one in eight the prior week and close to zero at the beginning of March.
More recently, Redfin expanded its live video open house pilot program to three additional markets – Minnesota; Raleigh, North Carolina and South Carolina – and on April 16, it began hosting video open houses on Facebook Live in addition to Zoom. The pilot program, which launched on April 4 in Portland, Oregon; Boston, and Oklahoma, is now operating in six markets total with plans to expand to additional markets soon.
About a year ago, Zillow announced it would be launching a pilot app for self-guided home tours.