Search icon


01st Apr 2021

Tips on buying property virtually in the Covid-19 era

James Fenton

Viewing properties before you buy your first home is one of the most important rites of passage when it comes to making the big move.

For many, the viewing is the moment when you just know that you want to spend the rest of your life in a home but with the Covid-19 lockdown in place, this part of the experience has been put on hold.

At present, some people are buying homes without physically viewing the property first but according to Estate Agent Owen Reilly, one of the panelists in the AIB Livin Dublin series, this isn’t something completely new. In fact, he says that virtual buying has been a feature of the market for some time, albeit a niche one. “For example, two years ago we sold a penthouse in the Docklands virtually for €1.5 million to an Auckland based buyer,” Owen explains. “They were familiar with the location and they were buying the property as a European base for their family. The sale was closed a month before they set foot in the property for the first time.”

But how did the viewing work, exactly? Owen says that “they relied on the VR walkthrough tour and a video tour I conducted with them. Investors have regularly bought investment properties from us without a physical viewing over the last several years. For understandable reasons the least likely group to buy without physically viewing are owner occupiers.

“However, we are now seeing signs that some prospective home owners are actually prepared to buy a home without physically viewing it at all. Although virtual viewings still cannot replace physical viewings for most buyers, some are prepared to be flexible.”

Owen continues: “Some owner occupiers have to buy: their mortgage approval is close to running out, they have sold their existing property, they don’t want to wait any longer. It is possible to go sale agreed virtually but it will not be possible to view before you sign a contract. However, for those who cannot visit Dublin with restrictions and want to buy, it is possible and technology has made that possible. This is important in case lockdown goes on longer than we think.

Naturally, virtual buyers are becoming more prominent in the era of Covid-19 and if you’re one of them, Owen is on hand to help. In what is a tumultuous period for buyers, Owen has kindly offered Lovin Dublin readers some tips on buying property virtually in the Covid-19 era, which you’ll find below…

Here’s how to do virtual viewings right;

‘It is important the seller has a VR walkthrough tour on the property. For three years we have been using Matterport tours. They offer immersive, 360’ views of each room but can include the garden and front exterior. Other helpful features include a digital floor plan and dollhouse of the property and a very useful measurement tool to see to check dimensions and see if your furniture will fit.

‘It is the next best thing to actually being in the property. In addition a video of the property is essential and the agent will be happy to do live video tour also. Homes buyers will want a detailed walkthrough of the entire space, a sense of any issues or repairs (important the seller is upfront about these if any), brightness of the rooms, and storage space.

‘The functionality of the space, a sense of ambience or a feeling about the house and the décor were also important considerations to encourage people to buy a house from a virtual viewing. Buyers can still check out the street and neighbouring properties and of course the front exterior of the house. Google street view is great tool in this regard if the property is outside your 5km.

‘Buyers might be apprehensive about going sale agreed on a property they have not physically viewed but VR walkthrough tours and videos can give a very good idea of what the interior offers. The VR tour does offer that immersive experience so you can get a sense of the ceiling height and how the rooms are proportioned. It should also be noted that once you are sale agreed on the property a physical visit will be possible before you sign the contract in line with guidelines.’

This how we will be conducting virtual sales in compliance with HSE guidelines:

  • Enquiry comes in.
  • We conduct a guided VR walkthrough tour once proof of mortgage approval is provided.
  • The interested party makes an offer.
  • If the offer is acceptable, a refundable deposit is requested and the property is now sale agreed.
  • Prior to the contract being signed a physical viewing can be arranged, if required, with PPE. The property will be vacant for this inspection.
  • Following the physical viewing the contract will be signed and the sale will close. We can still arrange visits for surveyors and valuers as they are deemed essential.

Hopefully, in-person viewing will be back in the near future but thanks to Owen, buying virtually has been made a lot easier! If you’d like to hear more from Owen, you can follow his expert advice over at this link.