Among the many changes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it, virtual real estate tours are right at the top of the list. As people look to flee from crowded urban areas in the quest for social distance, they are often shopping for their new home online in areas of the country hundreds of miles away. While technology has certainly made this possible, there are some important points that must be considered before navigating the relatively new virtual real estate landscape. Look for Homes that Have a Self-Guided Tour Feature One of the benefits of taking a home tour in-person is that you have the ability to explore every nook and cranny of the property and ask any questions that may arise along the way. Fortunately, with the quality of contemporary HD imaging and 360 cameras, this same luxury should be afforded when touring a new home virtually. If a home does not offer these types of views in great abundance, be suspicious. For example, listings that offer only recordings of a realtor walking you along a predetermined, recorded tour of the home are likely trying to focus your attention on the home’s most flattering aspects. Similarly, images that do not allow you to zoom in and explore every inch of the vinyl flooring, shiplap siding, or any other feature of the home from a variety of angles should be taken with a grain of salt. Tour with a Realtor Even though you are likely to know exactly what you want in a new home, you will not have the same level of expertise as a licensed realtor. Therefore, just as it is a good idea to take a realtor with you on an in-person tour to discuss potential safety hazards, building code violations, and potential renovation projects, so too is it a good idea to have a realtor look at any virtual properties that you are particularly excited about. This trained set of professional eyes will draw your attention to factors that you may have initially overlooked. Keep an Eye Out for Red Flags Unless you have an unlimited budget to build a home exactly to the specifications of your dreams, the home buying process will always involve some give-and-takes, with at least a handful of drawbacks or points of concern likely to manifest themselves even in your favorite homes. However, there are some concerns unique to the virtual home shopping experience that should be taken into consideration beforehand. The following scenarios, common to online listings, should cause buyers to raise red flags: Missing floor plans. You should always have the ability to compare what you are seeing with your eyes to how it is drawn up on paper and confirm that they are congruous. Is there an abundance of videos and images that focus on the exterior? This could be an example of a fresh coat of paint trying to make the home look nicer than it is. Can you zoom in on the roof and see if it is covered in impact resistant shingles or basic asphalt that is shedding granules? Know What Questions to Ask The motivation for purchasing a home is different for each person. While one buyer may be a family that has outgrown a starter house, the next may be a real estate investor who is looking to capture gains in resale value. The purchase motivation will yield a set of questions that can help online shoppers narrow down properties. Family-oriented shoppers may be looking for functionality. How big is the kitchen? Are the floors durable enough to withstand heavy traffic? Is there office space to support remote work and education? On the other hand, investors may be looking for a slightly different set of features. Can the foundation and framing support future renovation? Are there aging-in-place features, such as handrails and walk-in showers, that will appeal to a greying market? Is the home energy efficient enough to compete with more contemporary builds? All of these questions should be easily answered by the listing agent before a virtual tour ever takes place. Conclusion The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the shift to a more virtual real estate market. While this medium offers many advantages, there are still some challenges that astute buyers must be on the lookout for. By following any of the aforementioned points, you can be assured that your virtual home shopping experience goes as seamlessly as possible. Authored by: Matt Lee Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.