By: Lewis Allsopp- CEO Allsopp & Allsopp
The property industry has come across many roadblocks over the last year as we battle through the Covid-19 pandemic and navigate around the obstacles that have arisen.
Physical property viewings and market appraisals were drawn to a halt on April 4th when Dubai’s 24hr sterilization process came into play. As a company, we pride ourselves as being early adopters of technology and we already had 360-degree property tours available on the majority of our listing adverts. These 360 tours have made virtual viewings doable by using screen sharing technology to show viewers the real-life property room by room as they would see it on a physical viewing.
When we emerged from the sterilization period, we also made our agents capture video tours of properties wherever possible.
Being pushed into a social distancing environment has accelerated our use of technology which will have a great long-term impact on the Dubai property market and we are already seeing this now. A number of properties have been sold after only a 360-degree tour or video tour. This is not only happening for clients who reside out with the UAE but is also becoming more popular with residents in the UAE.
For example, we recently sold a Lakes villa in Emirates Living to a family who was previously renting a villa in the same area. They had been in the market to buy for some time and when a property close by became available they were interested. However, the tenants were not comfortable with physical viewings, so we arranged a virtual tour of the property and showed the client. He decided to buy as it was the property they had been waiting for and was at a great price.
We have seen the same thing happen in JLT from a buyer who was previously renting, knew the layout of the property for sale, and snapped it up without a viewing.
Of course, we still have international investors who are using virtual tours to buy properties because of travel and time restrictions.
So, in circumstances where a physical viewing is not possible, buyers are more obliged to buy a property without a physical viewing. Could this be a sign of a new real estate trend post-Covid-19?
I believe that physical viewings will not become a thing of the past quite yet but I do think that they will become increasingly popular if the price is right. So long as demand remains high in certain communities and property listings are less than that of the number of buyers, we could see more of this.
We are certainly seeing buyers and tenants viewing less. With virtual tours on many of the properties we see on property portals, buyers and tenants are using these to their advantage to save time. Virtual tours are a great way to save time and narrow down a property search – this is happening now and I feel this will continue to happen as we move past the pandemic. Those looking for a new home are simplifying the process for themselves by ruling out areas and properties based on doing a bit of their own due diligence before they start the viewing process, so when it comes to physical viewings, they have very few and it then turns into a shortlist rather than blindly viewing multiple properties in multiple areas.
As we have seen through advances over time, things rarely go back to the way they were. I think that if we were to tell our grandparents that buying clothes from a shop would be a second option and buying from pictures online would become the norm – they would have told us that would never happen, but here we are! Technology is changing the world and I don’t see real estate being an exception to this rule. In 2019, virtual viewings were very few and far between but now are almost expected on most property listings. Some people would say that the fact these are now leading to sales and leases is extraordinary, I think it’s a sign of the industry keeping pace with the world we now live in.