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People Might be Social Distancing but They’re Still Buying Homes

Technology plays a vital role in the housing market, but in today’s unchartered waters tech is vital to the heartbeat of real estate. Just as companies have taken meetings online with platforms like Zoom, there has also been an obvious spike in virtual home showings.

According to a news release from Redfin  virtual home tours were requested almost 500% more in one week. Redfin has taken a number of precautions in the fight against COVID-19 in order to keep people safe, but still keep the market going. Zillow has also reported a major uptick in its 3D Home Virtual Tours. This new normal includes a lot of innovation and technology. Three-dimensional scans have enabled Redfin to create an interactive experience of property listings for the borrowers.  Video chat tours have also become increasingly popular as some sellers are comfortable with the agent virtually the showing the home to potential buyers.
Keller Williams closed down all in-person showings saying that “We feel we are fully positioned to stay digitally connected and deliver the best training content in our industry, even while we all may be at home with families, where we belong.” Social media has been another online player in open houses. Realtors are resorting to facebook live streamings to show off properties.

Custom tools have been another interesting technology that buyers can use. Meritage Homes  has such tools for people buying a custom home that enables them to design their home, look at the property on a map, and even watch a demo of the home being built.

Google Earth and Google Maps are another way that buyers can canvas their potential new neighborhoods and see what the surrounding homes look like. People are increasingly purchasing homes sight unseen… at least in the physical sense.

Electronic closings have also enabled buyers to purchase homes without having to interact with their real estate agent in person. Redfin has taken the closing process almost entirely offline as states permit. The biggest hang-up with closings are notaries and appraisals. A lot of closing documents require a notary which is typically done in-person. Not all states take a form of remote notarization but there are an increasing number of exceptions in response to COVID and the pressure is on for the remaining states to adapt. Even The Federal Housing Finance Agency has adopted what they call “Alternative Home Appraisals” due to the virus. This rule is in place through May 17th as a majority of the country is still observing shelter-in-place orders.

Real estate has notoriously been slow to adapt to technological advances and is one of the last remaining industries still slogging through physical papers and reliant on in-person interactions. This pandemic has certainly caused the real estate industry to be resilient and become adept to tech. The good news is that the housing market is rising to the occasion and still persevering through these uncertain times.

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