The Future of Home-Buying is Technology: How COVID-19 is Pushing the Real Estate Industry to Go Digital

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Due to the restrictions placed to contain the pandemic, many businesses now struggle to survive. Almost every industry was hit badly as consumers retreat indoors where they are safe from infections.

However, not all are affected. Some have been experiencing an increase in activity during and because of the pandemic.

The housing sector, in particular, has not been slowed down by COVID-19. In fact, as the economy enters a recession, mortgage rates slid down to an all-time low.

Many homeowners have taken advantage of the current crisis by refinancing their mortgages, saving them thousands of dollars in the long run. Aspiring homeowners are also rushing to apply for FHA loans, which are mortgages that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, to fund their purchase.

Home-Buying Made Possible Through Virtual Reality

The continued selling and buying of homes would not be possible without the aid of technology. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasize the importance of social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. So, now that physically being in a house with buyers, sellers, real estate agents, and inspectors have become unsafe, viewing and other processes and procedures have shifted digitally.

One technology that many real estate agents have adopted during the pandemic is virtual reality. Buyers obviously want to take a tour of a property before they make a sale final. However, shelter-in-place orders have made visits impossible.

Using virtual reality, or VR, buyers can walk around a house digitally. It is the closest that they can get from being physically present on the site. VR allows buyers to be in a room and look around, getting a more accurate look at the features and size of the house.

It is different from looking at a photo or watching a video recording. It is difficult to estimate the size of a space from looking at a few imageries.

With VR, the space looks and feels more real.

Not all real estate agents offer a virtual reality experience to buyers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic proved how necessary the technology is in buying and selling houses moving forward.

Live on Social Media

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The rise of open house live streaming has also helped real estate agents find sellers for houses that are on sale.

It is not as immersive as using virtual reality headsets for digital walkthroughs, but open houses, that are live-streamed on social media, can effectively drum up interest in a listing during the pandemic.

Streaming is accessible to more people. Hundreds to thousands can attend an open house online — far more than the number of people that can be accommodated if it was held on-site.

It is not difficult to obtain either. Pretty much everyone in the United States has a smartphone or laptop. Almost every adult has a profile on at least one social media platform.

Anyone who is considering buying a house can take a look at a digital open house, without stepping out of their front doors.

Socially-Distant Closings

The use of technology in buying and selling a house does not end in digital viewings.

A couple of title companies are also taking precautions, leveraging technology to ensure that everyone involved is not at risk of catching the virus.

They are now offering remote online notarization, which involves the use of audio and visual technology, to complete transactions that otherwise had to be made on-site. There are concerns over being in proximity to people who may have the virus.

Documents are being signed electronically, too, to avoid the transfer of physical papers between two or more people.

It works similarly to traditional notarization. However, instead of visiting a physical location where both parties will be present, it is done online. The notary will watch the buyer sign the document through a digital conferencing platform.

The buyer would need a working webcam, a microphone, and a stable internet connection to do this. They should have an understanding of how to navigate the software that is being used during the remote online notarization. The notary will also record the interaction.

Whether the real estate industry will continue to use technology after the pandemic remains to be seen. However, COVID-19 made it clear how the entire process of buying and selling a house would benefit from using the latest technology available in the market. From virtual reality and social media to remote notarization, buyers, sellers, and agents can go through the steps of buying and selling a house digitally.

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