I believe that it's critical for prospective buyers to be informed prior to a showing about how to best go about a virtual showing. In this article, I wanted to share my top tips.
Observe the area of a property online prior to showing, including outside of the main listing that may be intentionally hiding negative elements.
Sometimes a buyer will start a video of a property and decide just by a glimpse of the area or the house itself from an angle not shown in the pictures that they do not want to even walk in. In the case of live video, while sometimes it's easy to rearrange appointments at subsequent properties, sometimes it's not. In the case of recorded video, through the Google Map street view you can often see much of what I would see before entering the property & that 1 step of a few minutes can save me much more time than that.
While there are dozens of area factors that you can check out online, here are just a few:
1. If you're looking in an area where flooding can be an issue in certain areas, as is the case in Hampton Roads, check if the property is in a flood zone (how to do it within the Matrix portal that Adam can set up for you if he hasn't already)
(Image courtesy Youtube)
3. Get a visual of the area via Google maps, including street view, aerial view, and their 3D mode in the event that you are looking in an area with a sizable enough population density for the 3d mode to be possible.
3d mode example:
Street view example:
Also, if you are doing future in-person showings & 1 property is distant from others, it can be frustrating for buyers to drive all the way out somewhere only to find that there is no way that they would live there without even walking in.
Arrange a Video Platform Prior to Showing
It's best to arrange with your agent in advance what video platform you'd like to use. We can do recorded or live. I prefer live (specifically Zoom due to built in recording and Zooming options) if you're available. Live options include Facebook messenger, Zoom, Skype (Adam.B.Garrett), Google Hangouts (Adam.B.Garrett@gmail.com), WhatsApp, or we can quickly transition from a regular call to a direct video call if you have an android phone like me. If you'd like to use another platform, just let me know.
Also before the call you might want to look into the options for recording the Zoom session:
Use a Large Screen
It's best to be using as large of a screen as you have available and sitting relatively close to that screen to get the best experience with a video showing. If that screen doesn't have built in speakers, be sure to set up speakers (or even better, noise canceling headphones) in advance and have the volume at as close to a normal level as possible (i.e. so you can hear how loud a neighbor's dog barking, a train, a plane, or traffic noise would be if you were present). While having a camera on the screen is nice, it's not as important as having a big screen. It's also ideal to be sitting behind a keyboard for you to take notes if desired regarding the many pros and cons that I and you will together likely point out. While in person I typically take these notes in writing or audio recorder, I don't when my phone is being used for video showings.
Look at Virtual Tour First if Home Has One
If a home has a virtual tour, by all means, look at that before requesting a virtual showing. Often the virtual tour won't show a number of places, such as the exterior of the home, attics, and garages, but a virtual tour is a great step towards whether or not a virtual showing via video makes sense for you.
Advanced Notice on Area Video
Whether you want to look at association amenities (i.e. pool/clubhouse), the neighborhood, or local area amenities, be sure to let the agent showing you the property know in advance. For instance, it would only add 30 seconds to the time required by your agent to mount their phone to their dash for you to begin your showing a few, 5, or 10 miles from the area simply en route to the home as long as they have a solid camera/dash mount like I do.
Live & Recorded
It's ideal to have both a live and a recorded video going at the same time, and not within the live platform like Zoom. The reason why is that the quality of a recorded video will typically be superior to a live one due to reception. Also in some cases, a live video may not be viable at all due to reception or could be very spotty, even in relatively populated areas if buildings have too significant of an impact on reception (think of a stone home with a basement). I have a setup for both live and recorded on 2 devices (Samsung S22 and S21 Ultra 5G) simultaneously, while likely less than .1% of Realtors have that including a device that holds the 2 together & has lights. That said, there is often a significant delay prior to a recorded video being uploaded, so don't be surprised if it takes 8 hrs, and in some cases, even more.
Consider earnest money deposit in advance if you trust your agent & want to save potentially $30
While not typical, some find it best to get an Earnest Money Deposit in the mail or initiate a transfer to their real estate firm before they see properties so that by the time it arrives, their agent can use it if need be. Typical timing of when an EMD is needed is often within 2 business days of contract ratification (when buyer & seller have agreed on terms) so standard mail often won't get there in time.
One negative of that is that sometimes a listing agent will request the EMD go to their company, though often listing agents are understanding with out-of-towners for an EMD going to the buyer's agent's firm. If the EMD is not used in a transaction, it can go right back to the buyer. Also, if no contract is ever created between buyer and seller, the EMD should not be deposited, while the check itself can be held if needed.
If you don't do an advanced approach on this (most buyer's don't), you will typically incur higher costs of transferring the funds vs standard mail. For instance, many banks will send a check for you to someone for free, while a much lower number of banks will provide you a free wire transfer. Synchrony bank will provide 3/month after you have an account with them for 5 years as of the time of this writing, which is how I have free wire transfers. If you don't send an earnest money deposit in advance, often your best bet will be to use a wire transfer, even if it's $25 or $30.
I have heard horror stories firsthand where an EMD was pocketed directly by the agent. For one, the EMD should never be made directly out to the agent. If something like that ever happens to you, and the agent refuses to return your EMD, reach out to their principal broker. If they don't do anything about it, reach out to the real estate board for that state. They could lose their license over something like that.
I hope that's helpful!