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A walk-through on virtual inspections

Even before the new normal of social-distancing, virtual property inspections were on the rise. However, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, and new technology becoming more available, we’ve seen a meteoric increase in their use, which is transforming the real estate industry. The convenience of being able to view a property remotely, at a time that suits them, appeals to prospective buyers and renters alike. It offers a quick and easy way to gauge whether a property immediately lures them in and is worth putting more effort into researching.


There are 3 common types of virtual inspections:
  • Live virtual inspections - where the real estate agent uses a video call app like Facetime, Skype, or Zoom to do an informal real-time walk-through the property highlighting features etc.
  • Video walk-throughs - where a professional videographer produces a video, often with music, captions, or graphics, that is added to the online listing.
  • 3D virtual tours - which uses virtual reality software to create an immersive and interactive user experience as they view the property remotely from the comfort of their home or even on a mobile device.

Live virtual inspections have the advantage of being able to ask questions directly to the real estate agent as you’re viewing the property. However, it does mean you need to login to the video platform at an agreed time with the agent so it’s almost like doing an in-person inspection or open house.


The advantage of a professionally produced video walk-through is that it’s available online to be viewed at any time, and as many times as you like. It also means, however, that you’ll be presented with the information the seller/agent wants you to see but not what they don’t.


3D virtual tours have been in use for a number of years now.  The specialised equipment used to video the property and produce the 3D video provides viewers with the ability to create their own tour of the property. They’re able to click through to get 360-degree views of rooms, examine schematic floor plans, and zoom in on points of interest. Many even include a measuring tool.


Depending on whether you’re buying, selling, or renting, each type of virtual inspection has its own pros and cons.


When you’re buying a property, as we said previously, having a video walk-through or 3D-video allows you to quickly and easily short-list properties that warrant further investigation. It can also help you to visualise how your furniture and belongings might look in the property. Being available online also means that you can view it whenever you want and as many times as you want.  You can also share it with family or friends for their opinion too.


A key drawback though is that it only provides visual cues. Nothing can replicate the other sensory perceptions you experience with an in-person inspection … the smells, the noises, and so on.


If you’re not able to physically inspect the property yourself, it’s helpful to make a comprehensive list of questions for the real estate agent. This could include things like:

  • The quality and age of fixtures such as tapware, flooring, and heating / cooling appliances.
  • Any recent renovations or are there items that need to be repaired, upgraded, or improved.
  • Access to parking, or other local amenities.
  • Storage space available.
  • Effort required to maintain gardens/landscaping.
  • The orientation of the property, for example, which rooms get the morning and afternoon sun.


If you’re looking for a rental property, the advantages and disadvantages will be similar to buying.


When you’re selling a property, you can potentially reach a broader market through the use of virtual inspections. The ability for potential buyers, from much further afield, to be able to view the property virtually opens up a whole new market to sell your property to. The question then becomes ‘What type of virtual inspection will be most helpful to sell my property? And at what additional cost?’ If you have a prestigious property aimed at high net worth buyers, then the cost of professionally produced videos or 3D virtual tours may be able to be recovered through potentially getting a higher price for the property. On the other hand, if you’re in the ‘first home buyer’ or ‘mum and dad’ markets, a simple live inspection using FaceTime or Skype is a lower cost option that may be more appropriate.


Technology is changing the way we do many things, so why not buying and selling houses too? The convenience factor potentially outweighs the traditional, personal home inspections opening up a broader more extensive market by providing the opportunity to reach more people.


Written by the Davidson Institute powered by Westpac.

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This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness of the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. © Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.