Virtual viewings have been introduced in an effort to maintain social distancing standards while searching for a property, meaning potential renters and buyers can now view flats and houses from the comfort of their own home. Since they were introduced, virtual viewings have become so popular with house hunters that it looks like they are here to stay. Express.co.uk has expert insight on how the rental market could change over the coming years.
How could renting be affected by coronavirus?
CEO of Movebubble.com, the UK’s first video rental app, Aidan Rushby, says that virtual viewings are not as new as people may think, and are expected to become the ‘norm’ in the near future.
Mr Rushby told Express.co.uk: “Over the past 18 months we have tracked a significant shift in the way people are choosing to view rental properties.
“Before the pandemic, we already knew from our 700,000 strong database of renters that they wanted a simpler and more convenient way to search and secure their next home.
“We found an overwhelming demand from people wanting to virtually view or transact online and avoid having to view a property in person.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this shift in consumer behaviour and we can certainly expect to see virtual viewings using mobile technology become the norm.”
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Mr Rushby said house prices are widely expected to fall over the coming months as a result of the coronavirus.
Increasing uncertainty surrounding employment and job security means many more people will be looking to rent, as opposed to committing to a mortgage.
In terms of virtual viewings contributing to the industry, Mr Rushby said the move was “integral” to transforming the property market.
The CEO explained: “Based on current demand and our own internal analytics, we predict that by 2025, physical property viewings in the rental market will be a thing of the past – with more transactions taking place virtually via smartphone.”
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This is due to a number of factors, including ongoing social distancing measures, the accessibility to a smart-phone with a high-resolution camera and the introduction of 5G, which will work hand-in-hand to “accelerate the adoption of this new behaviour”.
Mr Rushby added: “In the fast-paced world we live in today, most young professionals are time-poor.
“Most of us work long hours and one of the last things we feel like doing after a hard day’s work is venture out far and wide to look at different properties.”
Movebubble offers home walkthroughs which give “honest and comprehensive, room-by-room virtual guides to prospective homes.”
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Will virtual viewings have a positive effect on the property market?
In short, yes. House hunters will be able to adapt to new ways of working and living, and virtual viewings will provide an easy and hassle-free way for renters to find a home.
Mr Rushby added: “This new method of finding a property will quickly pave the way to solving many of the problems around physical viewings that have plagued the market for so long, from time saving to being ‘flat-fished’.
“Simply put, people want and expect to be able to make swift decisions with as little impact on their day-to-day lives as possible.
“With our virtual viewing feature, we aim to connect Movebubble partners – Letting Agents, Build-to-Rent and co-living partners – with potential renters to offer an honest, reliable and trusted rental experience.”
London renter Robert Mirante, 24, told Express.co.uk he is concerned about the state of the rental market.
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Mr Mirante said: “Ideally, I would like to move somewhere a bit more central for work, but the market doesn’t seem right or welcoming at the moment.
“It makes me feel a bit anxious not knowing when I will be able to move because of the state of the nation or economy coming out of lockdown.”
Mr Mirante said he would be “apprehensive” about viewing a home conventionally for fear of contracting coronavirus, but was open to virtual viewings.
He added: “I think a virtual viewing would be a fantastic option given the circumstances the UK is in.
“It would also be very helpful it were a video, I could return at any time to revisit the property.
“I do have friends I want to move in with and being able to share with them a virtual viewing would make coming to a decision much easier as well as making it move convenient to access.”
Nishi Patel, 21, a renter in north London, said she feels real-life viewings are “key” to finding a home you “absolutely love”.
Ms Patel told Express.co.uk: “If you are planning to start a family or live alone/with a partner, wouldn’t you like to know how it looks without looking at just photos and videos?
“Viewing homes enables you to gain a better understand about the house and neighbourhood.” Ms Patel said that she would use virtual viewings, however, to get a feel for the property before visiting.
She added: “A virtual viewing allows me to know whether or not I’d be interested in that property.
“Having just a couple of images online can be misleading and make you think that the house isn’t up to its full potential.
“Virtual viewings help you see more of the home and whether or not it’s enough space for us.”
Ms Patel said she has used Movebubble to participate in virtual viewings in the past, which has made her moving experience “more interesting”.
She explained: “I feel comfortable knowing I can view every room of the home from a phone screen first, before I decide to make contact. It’s really helpful and safe for first time/all renters.”
Rental prices have been steadily rising up until this point, but that could all change after coronavirus.
Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK increased by 1.5 percent in the 12 month to January 2020, up from 1.4 percent in December 2019.
This means that a house which would have cost £500 pcm in January 2019, would cost £507.50 in January 2020 – in line with growth rates for that year.
Private rental prices in London increased by 1.3 percent in the 12 months to January 2020.
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