Why virtual viewings will never replace face to face

Q. I am looking for a rental property but don’t have much time to view in person – can I trust “virtual viewings”?

A: The property market has embraced technology more and more over the past few years, becoming especially popular with off plan new build developments. For example, I recently visited an incomplete, high-rise new build where potential buyers can still appreciate what the views will be by wearing virtual reality goggles. Some developers and estate agents are also spending money on producing videos of properties which can be really useful if you’re not able to view, or if you want to recap details from a viewing.

We have a number of clients who might not be able to view a property, either due to being based overseas or outside of London, or their schedule is simply too busy. As such, a virtual viewing is great as a first round, but, if you can’t get to the property yourself, I would say it’s best to ask someone, whose opinion you trust, to do so on your behalf.

We preview every property before we show clients and, in some cases, that’s all that is needed, as our clients trust our judgement. There are plenty of properties which photograph incredibly well but, in the flesh, there are flaws which would have been missed otherwise. Equally, I have also come across properties which haven’t been photographed well, but are gems in real life; so it’s good to have a trusted opinion to help you tell the difference.

This is also because a virtual viewing, while certainly able to give you a sense of space and a general feel for the property, can still be very limited; I don’t think technology can ever really advance enough to replace an actual viewing in person.

The digital world is unable to substitute the basic senses, which count for a lot when you’re looking for a property. Something like an image or a video won’t let you know if there’s a damp smell in the basement, whether the windows open smoothly, how good the hinges are on the kitchen cabinets, what the outlook is from the bedroom window, or whether you can hear the train line, and so on.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email Jo.eccles@eccord.com or tweet her @joeccles.