Real estate agents offer virtual tours to prospective buyers

With social distancing norms in place, they have taken the aid of technology

May 24, 2020 10:45 pm | Updated 11:21 pm IST - Bengaluru

The COVID-19 pandemic has not just caused a significant change in project deadlines and designing, but also in the way real estate sales are conducted.

With the lockdown and stringent social distancing norms in place despite relaxations in rules, real estate agents — the link between builders and buyers — have had to take the aid of technology to do their jobs.

Ummesh, secretary, Bengaluru South Realtors Association and south head of Bangalore Realtors Association India, said virtual tours have been helping agents, buyers, and builders. Buyers are expected to make a token advance once the deal is finalised on the assurance of a full refund in case they are not satisfied after a physical visit.

“Though the response during the period has been low, builders have been offering good bargains and there have been some transactions [conversion to sales]. It all depends on pricing and liking and need of the respective buyer,” he said.

How it works is that a real estate agent gets in touch with the sales team of property. A virtual meeting is established first and then virtual video tour is organised.

“Now there is no option. Builders are scared of becoming NPAs and want to make sales. In the future, virtual tours may become optional. It is too huge an investment for most people to rely only on virtual tours,” Mr. Ummesh added.

Rahul Phondge, CBO – Residential Services at a property consultants company, said even as lockdown is gradually being lifted to aid economic recovery, both property sellers and buyers will remain wary of doing things the old way. “Real estate broking firms across the globe now rely heavily on technology to continue doing business to the backdrop of a major pandemic with no clear end in sight. Real estate is fundamentally a people business based on relationship building, but as the proliferation of social media channels proves, there is more than one way for interactions to take place,” he said.

A customer’s ability to view properties from the comfort and safety of his/her home has been a major breakthrough. For this, some real estate brokers have begun using drones to provide unique perspectives of both residential and commercial properties, he added.

But not everyone agrees on the practicality of virtual tours. Anthony Raj, owner of a real estate and property management in the city, said many housing societies and apartment complexes were not letting outsiders in. “We use pre-recorded photos and videos,” he said.

Increasing enquiries from landlords

While the real estate sector, like others, is reeling under the impact of the pandemic, real estate brokers said they have been getting an increasing number of calls from house owners seeking tenants for vacated houses.

Prakash, the owner of a real estate brokerage business at Dasarahalli, said he had received around 30 to 40 calls about vacant houses. “These have mainly been of single bedroom houses. Tenants, especially those who are from smaller towns around Bengaluru, have apparently gone back home and want to return only after the situation settles down. These are mostly people with non-permanent jobs,” he said. He also said many deals — sales and rentals — have been on hold as clients who want their spouses and others to see the property before finalising it have been unable to bring them.

Anthony Raj, owner of a real estate and property management at Cooke Town, said demand for properties is expected to go down in the developing areas and Outer Ring Road segment and for the luxury segment, given the anxiety surrounding job security and pay cuts.

Some renters have been caught off-guard as landlords are returning from abroad and want them to vacate. “The house we moved into a year ago belongs to a couple who are in Europe. Because of the COVID-19 situation and these uncertain times, they’ve been asked to return to India. They told us we will have time till July,” said Sharon (name changed). She and her family are now on the hunt for a new apartment to rent. “We can’t refuse their request to vacate. We’ve been running helter-skelter for a place now. It’s a weird situation. We moved into a furnished house after selling our old stuff. Now we have to start afresh. We’re going through brokers, personal assistance, community groups, etc.,” she added.

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