For residential real estate, touring homes virtually has become increasingly important since the coronavirus outbreak. Over the last seven months, home sellers, buyers and real estate professionals have had to work around restrictions preventing in-person property showings and grapple with safety concerns over potential exposure to COVID-19.
Last January, we conducted a survey to learn about buyer and seller preferences for home listings. We found that static photos are no longer enough and that both sellers and buyers overwhelmingly preferred a more immersive experience with 3D tours. In September, we partnered with Redfin, the technology-powered real estate brokerage, to poll 1,000 U.S. home buyers and 1,000 U.S. home sellers to see how these preferences have shifted since the onset of the pandemic.
Seven months into the pandemic, 78% of home buyers say they are choosing to view more properties virtually with 3D tours because of safety concerns. Home sellers shared these concerns, although to a somewhat lesser extent. Older homeowners were most likely to have safety concerns, with 59% of Baby Boomers reporting that reducing the number of people visiting their homes was an advantage to having a 3D tour, compared to 40% of Gen X and 38% of Millennial home sellers.
Sixty-nine percent of home sellers who did not think that 3D tours were a necessity before the COVID-19 pandemic, now feel that they are. The sentiment was especially pronounced for people living in the suburbs and small towns – 76% of people living in non-urban communities now say that 3D tours are a necessity, whereas only 45% felt that way pre-pandemic.
Buyers Want a True-to-Life Virtual Experience
The first impression of a home often comes from its online listing, and this initial online curb appeal can mean the difference between capturing or losing a prospective buyer’s attention. While home listings almost always include photos, 78% of buyers worry they are Photoshopped or misrepresent the space.
In fact, the buyers we polled in September were so confident in 3D tours that 71% said they would purchase a property sight-unseen, a 16% increase since we last asked this question in January. Furthermore, 82% of buyers agreed that 3D tours provide a more accurate representation of a home than photos alone. Baby Boomers showed the greatest confidence, with 91% of them indicating they feel this way.
“The shift to remote work is accelerating a trend of people migrating from expensive coastal cities like New York and San Francisco to more affordable inland areas during the pandemic, but the pandemic has also made it riskier for buyers to travel to go see home listings,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “Whether moving across the country or moving across town, virtual tours can help buyers get more comfortable with either eliminating homes from their in-person tour list or making an offer sight unseen—something many buyers are doing in this highly competitive market. In fact, Redfin surveyed homebuyers earlier this summer and found that nearly half of them said they had made an offer on a home sight-unseen.”
Sellers Express More Confidence in Offers
With a 3D tour, 83% of sellers now think their home may be more likely to be purchased sight-unseen, which is an 11% increase in the share of sellers who said this in January.
Among sellers who would not have accepted an offer pre-pandemic based on a buyer’s 3D tour alone, 64% would now do so. Similar to home buyers, 87% of home sellers felt that when it comes to accuracy, 3D virtual tours better represent their home than photos alone.
What Are the Advantages?
We asked sellers to rank the top benefits of 3D tours. Sellers identified attracting more serious buyers (67%) and selling their home faster (67%) as the top two advantages, followed by decreasing the number of in-person visitors (41%), and closing at a higher price (39%).
When we asked buyers to rank the top benefits of 3D tours, they identified the ability to view the home’s floor plan (75%), visualize the entire home layout in Dollhouse view (61%), and measure rooms, walls, doors, windows, etc. (60%) as the most important features. When we analyzed the responses to this question by generation, 73% of Baby Boomers said they would use 3D tours to narrow down which homes fit their needs, compared to 53% of Gen X and 54% of Millennials.
3D Tours Give Listings an Advantage, Now More than Ever
In May, TIME Magazine reported that ”in some cases, buyers aren’t even visiting their new house until after the contract is signed” and “the pandemic has pushed more to consider [purchasing remotely].” And in September, the New York Times declared “the open house is dead” and said that 3D tours are “essential to narrow the field...at a time when pent-up supply is flooding the market and in-person tours remain elusive.”
Look no further than the latest data from Redfin to see just how much more frequently people are taking virtual home tours. Redfin — the first and only brokerage to offer Matterport’s 3D tours across nearly all (94%) of its nationwide listings — has seen a significant increase in 3D virtual walkthroughs on its website in recent months. In fact, the number of 3D virtual walkthroughs happening monthly on Redfin.com has increased 483% during the pandemic.
You can learn more about how home buyers and sellers felt in January here.