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Would you buy a home without stepping foot inside?

US-based website realtor.com has released the results of a new consumer survey highlighting COVID-19’s impact on home buying, selling and moving in the age of social distancing.

The survey found that American consumers, especially younger demographics, want virtual tours and are warming to the idea of buying a home without visiting it in person.

Realtor.com and Toluna Insights surveyed 1,300 consumers during the week of April 5 to better understand their thoughts on how this pandemic has impacted current living arrangements, future plans and feelings about technology’s role in buying and selling homes.

Majority of living situations remain stable, but COVID-19 has sparked some changes
Eighty three percent of survey respondents noted that their living situation has not changed due to COVID-19.

Of those who have experienced a change, 8 per cent moved in with immediate family, 6 per cent moved in with a partner, 2 per cent moved in with extended family and 2 per cent moved in with a new roommate.

The survey also revealed that 68 per cent of respondents say that their plans to move (or their plans not to move) have not changed.

Of those whose plans have changed, 9 per cent weren’t planning to move but now need to and 14 per cent cancelled their plans to move.

Further, 9 per cent of the US consumers surveyed will now rent rather than buy and 7 per cent will buy rather than rent. This data points toward some level of stability in the housing market.

Younger demographics and renters feel more comfortable moving sight unseen
Despite the threat of COVID-19 and social distancing measures, the majority of people still want to see a home in person before making a purchase, but that sentiment is shifting.

With access to accurate listing data, detailed photos, virtual and live video tours, 24 per cent of people would be willing to buy a home without seeing it in person and 30 per cent would be willing to rent one.

Those numbers were slightly higher for younger demographics, of whom 29 per cent would be willing to buy and 34 per cent willing to rent.

Further, 21 per cent of Americans agree that COVID-19 has made them more likely to move into a home sight unseen.

“Uncertainty around COVID-19 and limitations around social interactions and group gatherings like open houses have made buying and selling homes more difficult than ever,” realtor.com CMO Nate Johnson said.

“As real estate agents and consumers seek out ways to safely complete these transactions, we believe that technology will become an even more imperative part of how we search for, buy and sell homes moving forward.”

Virtual tours, listing and neighbourhood information are critical for buying during COVID-19
The biggest share of respondents (47 per cent) still prefer to see a home in person with a buyer’s agent.

Given new social distancing guidelines, 23 per cent prefer to go alone, 13 per cent prefer an online video tour and 6 per cent would like their agent to go to the home and show it via video chat.

When asked to select which technology features would be most helpful when deciding on a new home, responses in order of preference were:

  1. A virtual tour of the home (61 per cent)
  2. Accurate and detailed listing information (58 per cent)
  3. Accurate and detailed neighborhood information (53 per cent)
  4. High quality listing photos (51 per cent)
  5. The ability for my agent or landlord to walk me through the property via video chat (39 per cent)

Sellers are wary of open houses but open to listing photos and virtual tours
When asked about selling a home within the next six months, respondents showed a slight discomfort toward holding open houses, but were still generally open to allowing their agent and some shoppers inside.

Potential US sellers are most comfortable with:

  1. Allowing their agent in the home to take photos (56 per cent)
  2. Allowing their agent in the home to give a virtual tour (55 per cent)
  3. Having an agent walk a buyer through the home in person (47 per cent)
  4. Having an agent walk a buyer through the home via video chat (44 per cent)
  5. Holding an open house (35 per cent)

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