Virtual home tours have become a standard part of the house-hunting process during the pandemic. In a typical virtual tour, your real estate agent would walk through a home while showing you the property over a video app like Zoom or FaceTime, which allows you to ask questions in real time.
Although they are no replacement for traditional showings, “you can glean a lot of information from a virtual tour,” says Peggy Yee, supervising broker at Frankly Realtors in Vienna, Virginia. Here’s how to get the most out of a virtual home tour.
LOOK AT THE DETAILS
Professional photos can hide flaws, like scratches on hardwood floors and cracks on kitchen countertops. In addition, “photos distort things,” Lee warns. “For example, they can make a room look larger than it actually is.”
So have your agent inspect every nook and cranny — and don’t be shy, Yee advises. “Ask your agent to open kitchen cabinets, closets and other spaces that you can’t see in pictures,” she says. “Nothing is off limits.”
LEARN THE LAYOUT
If you can get a copy of the floor plan before the virtual showing, have it handy so that you can follow along during the tour.
Don’t have a copy? Then at least keep the listing photos close by. “When we’re Zooming with buyers, I have them look at the listing photos while we do the tour so that they can get a better feel for the layout of the house,” Yee says. “You may realize that there are only two bedrooms upstairs and the other two bedrooms are downstairs.”
CHECK DIMENSIONS IN REAL TIME
Make sure your agent brings a tape measure because it can be hard to eyeball the dimensions of a room over video. “The best way to figure out whether an empty bedroom can fit a king-size bed is to measure it,” Yee says.
DOUBLE-CHECK THE INTERNET CONNECTION
“If your agent doesn’t have a good internet connection, the video tour is going to be difficult,” Yee says. So if you suspect cell reception may be weak where the home is, ask your agent if they’ll be able to connect to the seller’s Wi-Fi network.
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DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE OUTSIDE
If you’re hunting for a single-family house, have your agent walk around the perimeter of the property so that you can see the condition of the home’s exterior and view the landscaping.
CHECK OUT THE AMENITIES
If you’re looking at a condominium or a house that has access to community amenities like a swimming pool or gym, ask your agent to give you a tour of those areas as well.
ASK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE
One advantage of having your agent on the ground is that they can detect things you wouldn’t be able to over video, like uneven floors, noise pollution or the smell of mold or smoke. (But keep in mind: Some sellers try to mask bad odors by using candles, diffusers or sprays.)
Remember, just because you’re on a virtual tour doesn’t mean you should be a casual observer. If you have questions during the tour, don't be afraid to ask them — after all, it could help inform one of the biggest purchase decisions you’ll ever make.