So the circuit breaker and the Covid-19 situation hasn’t diminished your need (or your desire) to buy or rent a property ASAP. But here’s the thing, you’ve never seen the property in person, and all you have to base your decision upon is a virtual property tour.

But should you be parting with your money based on an online viewing? It turns out that—pandemic or not—it’s not uncommon for wealthy property investors to rely on remote viewings and presentations by trusted agents and advisors. So, how do they do it without being burnt?

Turns out it’s perfectly okay to make a property buying or renting decision based on a virtual property tour, if you know how. Here are the pointers to bear in mind:

Pointer 1: Have an agent fight your corner

Ideally, you want it to make sure the remote viewing experience is as close to the actual experience as possible, and that means having buyer’s agent representing you and attending the virtual tour along with everyone else.

Because agents have experience with virtual viewings, your agent will instinctively spot if something is wrong with the property during virtual tour (e.g. a part of the property that’s on the floor plan hasn’t been shown but should really be inspected in detail).

While having an agent representing you might cost you 1-2% commission or a month or two worth of rent, having a trusted second opinon and personalised property guidance is important especially when making big-money property decisions during the Covid-19 period.

Pointer 2: Always insist the other agent shows his/her face

Having the seller’s property agent on hand to provide commentary as you “walk through” the property (via a video conferencing) is also vital in helping you make an informed decision. Not only will you be able to have all questions answered in real-time, you and your agent can tell whether something is ‘off’ by the other agent’s tone and mannerisms. It is also because of this that you should insist on a video call and not a voice call.

For rentals, it’s recommend to have the landlord on the video call as well. This can help renters determine whether the landlord is more ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ or ‘sworn enemy’. Negotiations (e.g. on rent and clauses) can also happen on the spot, saving time.

Landlords will definitely want to be on the virtual viewing call as well, to screen the tenant. The landlord can also look out for telltale warning signs like a messy room via the prospective tenants’ live video feed.

Whether you’re buying or selling, clarify what’s included in the inventory of the house and what’s not, especially since quite a lot of items you see in a virtual tour had been put there for styling, and not actually included for the buyer/renter as part of the transaction.

Pointer 3: Know the usual traps

We’ll have to admit: some virtual tours are so impressive they’re much better than being there in person, so it’s important that you, the buyer or renter, know these pointers:

  • Virtual tours, especially those impressive 3D ones, are done with wide angle cameras that make interiors look larger than they actually are. So, always ask for a floor plan with measurements so you can get a more accurate picture about the unit’s actual size.
  • If you’re in a video conference with, say, three other buyers, don’t feel pressured as the sellers’ agent will use them as arguments that you should plonk down your money ASAP after the virtual viewing. We advise taking additional steps to evaluate the property first (see next point)
  • If you attended a virtual tour that’s not ‘live’ (e.g. it’s a 3D walkthrough), schedule a video call with the current owner/landlord (their agents should facilitate this) during the time that you would most likely be at the property (i.e. in the evenings) as this would give a closer-to-reality feel of what the property is like and reveal previously unknown elements such as traffic noise
  • Don’t take the facing of the property for granted. A “south-facing unit” might actually be oriented south-west with some afternoon sun exposure. Double-check with the floor plan, or have your agent give you the exact bearing and sun exposure details.
  • Like um…photos on a dating app, virtual-rendered viewings can be touched-up to hide faults, such as a crack in the wall, so see Pointer 5.

Pointer 4: Use every single online tool to evaluate the property

Technology has come a long way. From Google Street View to 99.co’s comprehesive property data for homeseekers, these online tools will complement any virtual tours and online presentations.

Pointer 5: Find fault with the home

You’ve done your homework thoroughly and are about to make an offer, but there are still a fair bit of unknowns about the property, including what needs to be fixed.

The thing to remember is, absolutely no house is perfect, whether it’s a loose cabinet door hinge, scratched sofa or aircon that isn’t cold, you’ll want information about it before you make a decision.

And it’s a bit fishy for the seller and his agent to tell you that there are no absolutely no problems whatsoever.

A decent seller’s agent will actually highlight one or two minor problems or annoyances with the property if you ask for it, so ask them to highlight those issues and send across the relevant photos. Doing so will help you make an informed decision.

For buyers (during the circuit breaker period), you’ll still allowed to be physically present at the property inspection prior to taking over (without your agent present ), so any faults can be noted for rectification.

For renters, make sure there’s a clause in your Tenancy Agreement that stipulates that the landlord will remedy any faults within a week of moving in.

Bonus Pointer: Recalibrate your finances if necessary

Now this isn’t tied to virtual tours per se, but we still want to highlight this point. We know that home loan interest rates are very tempting right now, but unless you’re the boss of Sheng Siong supermarket (who is absolutely raking it in because of the Covid-19 crisis), now’s the time to be a little more circumspect on your budget for property.

The advice to be prudent also applies for renters. We spoke to some who, after being forced to work from home in their current property, would like to upgrade to a bigger, more comfortable space. Our advice is to cap your rent at 30% of your monthly income, or even lower if you work in an industry that’s impacted by Covid-19.

The Council of Estate Agencies (CEA) has also chimed in with a reminder: “Do ensure that all your questions about the property and the financial commitments are thoroughly addressed before making a final decision.”

So, should you buy or rent a house based on a virtual property tour?

The point we’re trying to make is, while it’s possible to make the right choice to buy or rent a property based on a virtual tour, you have to be diligent about it. The above pointers are the most important ones you have to take note of to make the right choice.


Source: 99.Co Property Guide