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West Cork house tours go virtual

June 16th, 2020 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

Virtual house tours will reduce the risk to both the buyer and seller in a Covid-19 world, where social distancing is so important for everyone's safety.

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There’s been a surge in people looking to relocate here since Covid-19 hit, because they want to live closer to family. Now, with strict new guidelines surrounding the showing of property, local auctioneers are embracing technology to open up West Cork to a public that can’t travel

WEST Cork auctioneers are embracing technology to give virtual tours of their properties to eliminate risk from the viewing process during the pandemic.

Adapting how they work has become even more relevant as it’s emerged that large numbers of people are looking to relocate to the area, once restrictions are lifted.

And while the overwhelming feeling is that nothing will replace a physical inspection when it comes to a possible once-in-a-lifetime house purchase, with lots of anxiety still surrounding Covid-19, these virtual tours will open up West Cork to a market that can’t travel.

MyHome.ie has just launched ‘MyHome Live’, which enables estate agents in Ireland to conduct a live video tour of a property for an unlimited number of viewers.

John Callan of MyHome.ie, said: ‘Only the agent needs to be physically present in the property during a live tour, during which questions from any number of prospective buyers can be asked and answered in real time. It offers buyers the most realistic sense of a property without actually being there, which makes sense at a time when social distancing is so important.’

Clonakilty estate agent Martin Kelleher said he would be very interested in this new service, particularly as he has a long list of people who want to view houses when things get up and running again.

‘There’s been a lot of interest from people who have decided to relocate to the West Cork area since the lockdown. Especially from people who already have family or relations already living here,’ said Martin.

‘The interest is mainly from Dublin and Cork city with a big increase from UK based residents too. The rental house queries are gone through the roof for the few rentals we have available. One of the first questions most ask about is the speed of the local broadband connection, as they work part-time or full-time from home.’

Martin said: ‘Obviously viewing vacant property will be fine, precautions being taken, but at least 60% of our listings are occupied and some of those are occupied by tenants. The best way to safely carry out viewings is to reduce the quantity of viewings and increase the quality.

‘So what we are trying to do is to get people to view the property from the outside themselves, so they are at least happy with the location and surroundings before going on to request an internal viewing. We then ascertain if people are in a ready position to buy, finance-wise, and we already do video tours, so we send these on to them.

‘The aim is that when people ring up wanting to view a house, they'll have seen all of the photos, video, floorplan, checked out the property from outside and have a clear idea of their finances. This will give the agent and vendor much more comfort before opening the doors of their home.’

The industry has already been given protocols on how to conduct viewings by SCSI/ PSRA/IPAV from June 8th with strict guidelines for the buyer and seller. They include things like pre-booked private appointment viewings only and for a recommended 15 minutes. Owners/occupiers must agree that they won’t be in the property at the time of viewing, all doors must be open to avoid viewers touching handles; some windows must be open to ventilate the property; lights must be already turned on and all storage units opened to avoid contact with viewers. Martin added: ‘There is a lot of new technology coming out to assist with the viewing and even bidding process, which is welcome, but at the end of the day you wouldn't buy a decent dress or suit without trying it on, and that’s even more so for houses.’

Maeve McCarthy of Charles McCarthy auctioneers, Skibbereen agrees: ‘The property viewing platform is on my radar but talking to colleagues and also my gut feeling is that people will rent by viewing a property virtually, they will not purchase a property without first inspecting it themselves.

‘I can see how virtual viewings can really work for showhouses and in urban areas where you have high footfall traffic for viewings, but all our viewings are by appointment already although it is something I will be looking more closely at definitely.’

Colm Cleary of James Lyons O’Keeffe in Schull said they are also discussing the various options at the moment as the volume of people looking at property in the area is great.

For Clonakilty-based Henry O’Leary, using technology to help sales is something he’s been doing for 19 years already.

‘We use virtual tours to qualify buyers so that our clients get better matched buyers arriving on the doorstep. Homeowners go to a lot of trouble to make sure their property looks its best for each viewing. If there is a young family in the home, it can be a big effort to get ready for a viewing. We find that our buyers will use the virtual tours as a first viewing, and when they visit the property in person, it is like a second viewing.'

The benefit for the buyer is that they can eliminate homes that are not right for them and save time and money by looking at homes that are most suitable.

'They can do this first time viewing any time without appointment, anywhere and stay as long as they want. The benefit for the seller is that they will end up with much better qualified buyers, they will not have as many physical viewings but the ratio of viewers to bidders is much higher.’

Hodnett Forde in Clonakilty, has responded to the new regime caused by Covid-19 by conducting their first virtual tour of a property new to the market in Ardfield.

Andy Donoghue explains how they have previously done one-to-one videos for potential clients.

‘We sold two properties in Union Hall and Reenascreena to buyers in the US and Spain this way, But this is the first time we’ve done a virtual tour,’ he said.

Like his fellow West Cork auctioneers, he agrees though, it won’t replace a ‘boots on ground’ experience.

‘It’s our senses that sell a property; but this will open up West Cork to a market that can’t otherwise travel.’

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