COVID-19 has changed the way a lot of people work, shop, and, apparently, buy homes. It's no secret that social distancing has been the mantra ever since the pandemic broadly reached U.S. soil in March, but that directive has a clear impact on the traditional homebuying process.
Normally, interested buyers start by searching online listings but then attend open houses and viewings before making an offer on a home. But because of the pandemic, many buyers are rethinking that approach and opting for a safer one: relying heavily on virtual tours to determine whether a home is the right one for them.
In fact, in a recent survey by Helitech, a home repair service, 34.5% of prospective buyers said they're willing to purchase a home without actually seeing it in person. And that means home sellers -- and the real estate agents they contract -- need to step up their game to attract buyers from afar.
The importance of staging and virtual tours in a COVID-19 market
Often, buyers are charmed by a home when they visit it and see what it looks like. But in the absence of being able to allow that due to COVID-19-related constraints, you may need to focus your efforts on staging your home and setting up a comprehensive virtual tour instead.
Staging a home could mean a number of things. On a basic level, you should start by decluttering. Doing so will make your rooms seem bigger, and that's an important thing when you're attempting to convey their size on a computer screen.
Depersonalizing your living space is also a key component of home staging. Potential buyers need to be able to imagine themselves living in your home, so remove all pictures of your family and try to make all rooms as neutral as possible. A childless couple who intends to stay that way, for example, won't be lured by your expansive playroom, but a large room on your main floor that's more of a blank canvas is apt to hold more appeal, as that couple might then picture it as a library, home office, or art studio.
Next, put some time into creating your home's virtual tour. Do a few run-throughs to see which angles portray your home in the best light. And speaking of light, aim to maximize natural light as much as you can. Also, home in on the details when creating a virtual tour. If your kitchen is loaded with countertop and cabinet space, make sure that's conveyed in the images you capture. You can consult this list of free and open-source virtual tour software to see which option is best for you. In fact, it pays to play around with more than one software program, especially if you're not shelling out money for it.
It's time to adapt
While roughly one-third of prospective buyers say they're willing to purchase a home without seeing it in person, in reality, you're more likely to land in a situation where a potential buyer views your home online and asks for an in-person showing to confirm the decision to move forward with an offer. But either way, there's still much to be gained by investing in a solid virtual tour and staging your home before you create it. That way, you're more likely to draw buyers in and get them excited about your property.