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Virtual vs Face-to-Face Viewings: Which is Better?

PropertyGuru Editorial Team
According to the H1 2021 PropertyGuru Consumer Sentiment Study, a majority of buyers said they prefer physical over virtual viewings. In fact, 4 in 5 respondents said they felt uncomfortable to rely solely on virtual viewings when deciding on a property to purchase.
So, are physical viewings really that much better? Let’s take a look.
Pros of virtual viewings
Pros of physical viewings
Saves time for buyers
You can inspect the condition of the house
You can spend as much time as you want
You get to explore the neighbourhood
It’s more convenient if you’re buying foreign properties
Provides a better picture of the Property
You can buy without viewing the unit
More engaging and you know who you’re dealing with

Pros of virtual viewings:

1. Saves Time

When you go for physical viewings, you typically have to travel and make multiple visits, which is both time-consuming and tiring. With virtual viewings, you can shortlist or narrow down the properties that you’re interested in (once you’ve done your research such as reading reviews and looking at the floor plans), and view them from the comfort of your home.
Also, as virtual tours provide you with 360-degree and bird’s eye views, you get to view the property from multiple angles, including the outdoor view.
Aside from that, all the paperwork, key documents and negotiations can also be done without having to meet up.

2. You Can Spend as Much Time as You Want

Unlike physical viewings, you may not pay attention to certain details during house visits as you would probably be listening to what the agent is saying. In some cases, the agent/seller may reshuffle or cancel your viewing appointment at the last minute, which may affect your plan for the rest of the day, especially if you have other viewing appointments lined up on the same day.
For new launches, you may need to make an appointment, which is based on available slots. Furthermore, the showflat may be crowded, and you probably won’t get to spend as much time as you would have liked.
With virtual viewings, you can spend as much time as you need to navigate and explore around the house, and zoom in on the details without worrying about crowds or schedules.

3. It’s More Convenient if You’re Buying Foreign Properties

If you’re an investor looking to buy a property overseas, you may not be able to travel to various property expos, given the current global travel restrictions.
But virtual property expos such as the Asia Virtual Property Expo (AVPE) provides the opportunity to view properties at the comfort of your home. Not only that, you can watch webinars by experts and even interact/conduct live chats with developers and agents.

4. You Can Buy Without Viewing the Unit

During the circuit breaker, property showflats were closed and physical viewings were disallowed.
During that time, developers, agents and individual buyers and sellers had to rely on virtual property viewings. Despite the plunge in new home sales in April 2020, property transactions slowly picked up in May as buyers grew more confident in virtual viewings.
In fact, there were a couple of landed homes that transacted for millions of dollars, namely, a $21.68 million Good Class Bungalow (GCB) at Windsor Park and a $2.2 million terrace home at 76 Dido Street. These deals were made even without the buyers stepping foot into the respective homes as the buyers had already done their research and were familiar with the properties.
Property sales during the circuit breaker prove that physical viewings are not always necessary, even for big-ticket items such as property.

Pros of physical viewings:

1. You Can Inspect the Condition of the House

If you’re looking to buy a resale home, then you would typically need to rely on your senses during physical tours. For example, weird smells or musty odour are telltale signs of issues such as mould and mildew.
While virtual viewings allow you to view a home from multiple angles, the experience isn’t the same as being there in person. Not only can you get a better look and feel of the home (such as Feng Shui), but you can also inspect for defects such as cracks, loose tiles and hinges, and paint bubbles. Additionally, you would also be able to test if appliances and fixtures such as air-conditioners and water heaters are functioning well.

2. You Get to Explore the Neighbourhood

Apart from the condition of the house, another important aspect of home-buying is knowing what the area is like. With physical viewings, you get a better perspective of your neighbours, and also get to walk around and explore to get a sense of the neighbourhood. These include the food available, the time it takes (and actual distance) to the nearest bus stops and MRT stations, and the condo facilities. Other things that you could look out for include crowds during rush hour and noise levels at different parts of the day. These are the factors that you can’t get from virtual tours.

3. Provides a Better Picture of the Property

If you’ve had any experience with house tours, then you know that info in listings may not always be accurate. For example, if it’s a pre-recorded tour, then the actual unit could be vastly different, especially if there were additions done to the home after the recording. Also, pre-recorded videos are less interactive as you wouldn’t be able to ask questions.
In addition, individual sellers/agents may not have the same budget as property developers with high-end equipment, so the video quality may not be as professional or detailed as well.
Last but not least, sellers and developers would likely also use wide-angle cameras to make the properties appear bigger than they actually are, or touch up rendered-images to hide flaws.
Therefore, when it comes to what the actual unit looks like, physical viewings would give you a better picture.

4. More Engaging and You Know Who You’re Dealing With

While you can also ask questions during a live virtual tour, but it probably comes a bit stiff or not as engaging.
On the other hand, it feels more natural/easier to ask questions during physical viewings, especially if there’s a discussion involved. Not only that, but it also gives you a better sense of what the agent/seller is like, which may help to make negotiations/conversations easier.

Conclusion: Which is Better?

Given the current circumstances, virtual tours may be better if you’re looking to buy an overseas property but can’t travel due to the current travel restrictions. Virtual tours may also help if you want to spend more time dissecting the unit at the comfort of your home, without worrying about crowds. This is especially true for new launches where there’s no physical property to view yet.
On the other hand, physical tours provide you with a better overall take on the property, especially if you want to inspect for defects, get a feel of the neighbourhood or get a more detailed look at the design. This is important because unlike new projects, resale properties do not come with the Defects Liability Period.
While virtual tours may provide another avenue for property viewing, remember that property buying is a big (financial) decision, so do not rush into it or get pressured by the agent/seller to buy the property.
Always take additional steps to research the property. Apart from reading reviews and looking at detailed floor plans as mentioned above, also remember to look at the URA Master Plan so that you know the surrounding developments in years to come.
Don’t forget to look at transactional prices of the properties in the area, or the asking prices of sellers on PropertyGuru’s listings.
More importantly, plan out your finances. Buying a home also means that you would likely take a mortgage to finance it, which would add to your monthly commitments in the next few decades. If you need help to finance your property, read our financing guides or speak to us for free at PropertyGuru Finance.