When the circuit breaker took effect in Singapore in April 2020, its restrictions on movement and social gatherings meant real estate agents had to temporarily defer clients’ physical viewings of properties.
Ohmyhome Super Agent Louis Tay and his colleagues adapted to the work conditions by using videos from their own or sellers’ smartphone cameras to showcase properties to those interested. He surmised that buyers who persisted on securing a home during a pandemic were probably quite familiar already with the location and were in urgent need to acquire a home.
Despite difficulties during the year in executing transactions, private residential home prices still showed a 2.2 per cent gain in 2020 while new home demand inched up to 9,982 versus 2019’s 9,912.
Meanwhile, Housing Development Board prices rose 5 per cent for the year, with resale flat sales reaching an eight-year high, up 4.4 per cent to 24,748 units compared to 2019.
COVID-19 has accelerated the use of technology in an industry that has always been dependent on people experiencing a potential home in person.
In Singapore, virtual walkthroughs, 3D mapping and online presentations have gained fans and allowed a number to sell or purchase their homes virtually.
Technology still has a long way to go, however, before it can beat the popularity of physical viewings. Currently, many homebuyers use virtual viewings to filter down their options, saving them time, and view only the short-listed apartments in person.
‘I think consumers in Singapore will need more time to adapt to virtual home tours,” Louis said. He cited how in 2020, many buyers were resistant to these tours, citing unfamiliarity and unease with the method.
“This year, clients have been more ready, more open to trying the technology. It helped that more sales agents have adapted to its use too. This is because if only a handful of us did this, clients would have just gone instead to others who will do physical showings,” he said.
With our home nowadays not just a safe haven from the pandemic but also classroom, office, movie theatre, gym and cooking centre rolled into one, technology catching up to where we live does seem to have its pros.
Successful selling via 3D house tours
Louis has successfully closed deals this year after online presentations, some of which included an Ohmyhome 3D tour of the property.
Ohmyhome’s 3D tours capture a space in three dimensions, adding depth to the older, two-dimension, 360-degree view. These are made by using scans of a home taken by an iPhone or iPad, for example, which are then stitched together to reconstruct the space into an immersive virtual tour.
“One such successful buyer, a mother and son, saw the 3D walkthrough of an HDB property and they found it reassuring. They saw that it was a unit that was in a better condition than the ones they had already seen at that point. They also liked the location and layout, which I had described to them in detail, among others, during my virtual presentation of the property,” he said.
These clients made their big decision to buy the property even without physically visiting the unit. They only got to view their future home in person when they went with Louis to the house to get the seller to sign the option to purchase.
Benefits of virtual tours
For agents, a strong benefit of 3D tours is that it allows clients to view the property from all angles, something which is not possible with pictures or 2D views.
“When we do our own videos of a house, the viewer cannot choose what they want to see as they are limited to the areas or angles that we captured. With Ohmyhome’s 3D videos, a client can turn the view to any point they want to see,” Louis said.
Digital walkthroughs can also be replayed at any time.
“This helps a buyer see the place again and again before making a decision. In the rush to see so many properties, many forget to check out features of the home, such as closet space or downlights, for example. Some also do not clearly remember which property is which. With these digital scans, they can now revisit the homes on their own time.
“Of course, they may also take their own videos and photos of the properties, but sometimes sellers don’t like that. To ensure our sellers’ comfort in their transaction journey, we tell clients that there is no need to take photos and videos as we can send them the link to the visual resources we have,” he said.
Virtual is not suitable for all properties
Not all properties are suitable to be presented to interested parties in a virtual manner.
Big homes are good candidates, as well as those which are highly sought after and presentable.
When asked if he would continue virtual presentations when COVID restrictions are a thing of the past, Louis said he would love to, provided clients prefer them too.
“This is because insisting on a virtual presentation may come across as laziness on the agent’s part. It may give the impression that he or she does not want to go down to the property. But online presentations do have merits in increasing efficiency in some areas of the transaction process.”