‘There is no way’ people will buy homes from a virtual tour

Between virtual tours and digital closings, realtors are hopeful they might be able to keep selling houses amidst the global pandemic that is keeping many Americans in their homes. 

But Barbara Corcoran, Shark Tank judge and founder of New York City residential brokerage The Corcoran Group, says relying on virtual tours is unrealistic. 

“You can’t show the units, sellers don’t want you in. Even the new development units aren’t having open houses. So the most you could pivot is you could do virtual tours. But do people really buy real estate, and how often, without actually walking into the unit? Very few people will take that kind of risk,” said Corcoran.

But she does think virtual tours play an important role in marketing real estate for the future. As brokers find more and more workarounds, Corcoran says marketing will rely more on remote tools instead of traditional storefronts with homes-for-sale flyers in the window.

“This will change the way real estate is marketed without a doubt. I think you’re gonna see all the brick-and-mortar stores that are paid for by large real estate brokers probably not exist two years from today. Because people are using to sell real estate at home without a doubt just as they do in many other businesses.” 

More for rental, short-term apartments

Some sectors, like the rental and temporary luxury markets in Maine and northern Connecticut, may find success with virtual tours, she said, as New Yorkers flee the city to avoid the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S.

“People will commit to a short-term lease and maybe even a one-year lease with the super showing the apartment on a virtual tour if they really need the apartment. But once you get outside the rental market, there is no way people are going to be buying units because of a phenomenal virtual tour,” said Corcoran.

The only other way to find success with virtual tours would be to offer housing units at a steep discount, she said. 

If “units could be offered at half price — hey — maybe even I’ll jump in there and say, ‘What the heck, let me take a shot!’ But it’s not the typical buyer by any means,” she said. 

Because consumers will not be willing to buy houses sight-unseen, agents will not earn commission and will have to rely on the government stimulus package, said Corcoran.

“Will it make people buy online, just looking at a virtual tour? I just don’t really see that really happening… So really, they [realtors] are going to be in line with everybody else looking for some benefit from the federal government,” said Corcoran.

Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahapaynter

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