Agents prepare for shift to virtual viewings over coronavirus

Agents have been preparing to conduct property viewings completely virtually, in anticipation of the government-mandated lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Firms that have been gearing up for this include agency DeVono Cresa, which has been experiencing a surge in demand for 3D showcasing.

The firm, which had signed a deal with Matterport four months ago to use its 3D modelling service, has been laying the groundwork for a complete shift to the virtual world to conduct viewings.

DeVono Cresa head of office agency and consultancy Chris Lewis said demand for the tool has “developed at pace” over the past few weeks, as measures to limit the coronavirus outbreak have ramped up.

“My instinct is that the majority of our enquiries now will be virtual, as in our interactions with the market and reporting back to clients will be via virtual methods,” said Lewis.

Several firms are shifting their focus towards virtual tours in similar ways, including JLL and Savills.

Although it is “early days”, JLL UK agency chief operating officer Tom Bennett said the firm has moved away from physical viewings and towards virtual tours, since remote working measures came in. The agent invested in NXT Office software two years ago to be able to do so.

“The biggest increase I have seen is in the demand for new virtual tours to be produced and we have booked quite a number [last] week,” he said.

“The important thing to acknowledge is that this is just the start of a new way of working. JLL has invested and equipped itself in order to thrive in new ways of working and we hope our clients will enjoy this mind shift too.”

Savills head of UK office agency Jon Gardiner said that although physical viewings have continued, the agent is gearing up to shift all viewings online.

He added: “We’ve been keen to say viewings are carrying on and buildings are still open… but we are also 100% gearing up all of our instructions to make sure everyone has a best in class virtual experience.”

Demand for viewings and lettings on the whole have been dropping in recent weeks. As the country gears up to stay indoors and work from home for the foreseeable future, Shaun Simons, director of London City fringe offices at Colliers International, said new enquiries have dropped significantly over the last week.

“On Monday morning [last week], we had 72 deals under offer. In the [following] 48 hours, 15 of those been aborted or have been asked to be put on hold until the situation normalises,” he said, adding that he expects this number to grow.

By Lucy Alderson

March 24, 2020

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