Last year, the UK government became the first major economy to pass legislation to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. It’s a challenging task that will require commitment and significant change to the nation’s infrastructure and economy including housing and property.
Spacial data company ‘Pupil’ has recently claimed that ‘Spec’, its virtual viewing product, could reduce the use of 51,500 cars on our UK roads annually. This would equate to 95.3 tonnes less of greenhouse emissions solely through agents and viewers using virtual viewings rather than visiting properties. 21% of the nation’s carbon emissions is through road transport, according to the Office of National Statistics, therefore addressing this portion is critical.
New methods help the carbon footprint
Pupil’s Founder and CEO, James D Marshall, commented on how virtual viewings have had to be adopted by agents during the pandemic and how the new procedure will also help with the carbon footprint: “Reducing emissions from vehicles attending physical property viewings is pivotal in curbing the alarming levels of carbon emissions in the UK.
“Virtual viewings are ‘the new normal’.”
Significant lowering of carbon emissions is not only crucial in saving our planet but is vital for the health of all its inhabitants. The Royal College of Physicians meta-analysis of air pollution revealed that road transport emissions are attributed to 10,000 premature deaths each year in the UK. The studies also showed that children from highly polluted locations are four times more likely to have reduced lung function when adults.
Scottish agents’ embrace virtual viewings
Scottish letting agents were quick to adapt and embrace the new approach to viewings to ensure the market continued in lockdown and essential moves could take place. Many agents are noticing the advantages in the new procedure and investing in equipment to improve the quality of the experience. Not only do virtual viewings benefit the agent, but they also help the landlord and tenant too. It appears that this alternative will be the new future for viewings. Citylets enables agents to include virtual tours in the property schedules.
Jonathan Gordon, Managing Director of Edinburgh based Clan Gordon, discussed his experiences of their new procedures: “Clan Gordon have worked really hard so we can operate safely during Covid-19, primarily to look after our existing tenants and their landlords’ properties but also to ensure that properties coming vacant could be made available for those who meet the tests set out for having to move during lockdown.
“Once an existing tenant checks out, we wait 72 hours then carry out a checkout to ensure the property is safe and secure, and at the same visit, we now capture a virtual tour using a 360 camera on tripod. We send those to anyone enquiring about vacant flats and have had some good success in letting these properties to those who have to move. We are already working on new procedures where we will more thoroughly pre-screen potential tenants by building these virtual tours into our process, and we already believe we might reduce the number of face to face viewers by more than two thirds, vastly reducing the carbon footprint for our lettings department.”
Tenants happy with virtual viewings
Glasgow based One Stop Properties have conducted virtual tours from the first week of lockdown. Managing Director, Wendy Gallagher, shared her views: “They have been a huge success and tenants love it as we still provide the same high-quality service albeit via online video conference and VTs.
“This feedback from tenants confirms that One Stop Properties has a complete solution that means that our virtual letting process works just as well as our physical one. Our virtual tour show very clearly the layout of the flat, the size and the contents.
“The only drawback I see is the limitations in terms of detail inside cupboards/storage spaces. Tenants don’t get to open cupboard and see the size of inside each cupboard storage space… This has given us the idea to do an additional tour with all cupboards and wardrobes open. This will be passed to tenants who wish to reserve the property.
“Going forward, when restrictions of lockdown are lifted, One Stop Properties will continue virtual tour viewings as well as physical viewings for those who wish. As we all get back to our busy lives, time is precious and more and more tenants will reserve properties on the basis of virtual viewings. This will help reduce the carbon footprint and speed up the process for all parties involved. The other added benefit is that staff members who are normally office based, can look at the VT and get a feel for the property without ever having stepped inside it. The one thing agents will have to ensure is that the virtual tours are updated for every new tenancy before it is presented to the market.”
Pure Property Management, based in Edinburgh, have used virtual tours for a few years and have found that they have become a necessity as a result of COVID-19. Director, Ashley Puren discussed why they started doing virtual tours and his thoughts on the method going forward:
“It started out as a bit of fun but something that we felt could add value for our landlords. Little did we know that it would become an integral part of our property marketing system! Doing viewings can become expensive; in man-hours, parking & fuel costs. To be able to show a property online, is an effective way of reducing company costs, but also an effective way to reduce costs for prospective tenants… they no longer have to travel to the property to view it. This in itself helps to reduce our carbon footprint.
“Online viewings can be done at anytime, without the to and fro between prospective tenant & current resident tenant. It can give prospective tenants an opportunity to view a property online at their convenience. The videos can be very effective showing space, light & details that are often not clear from static photos. The drawback is that we don’t get to meet the viewer. We like to get a feel for the person, we like to adopt a personal approach & we like to get to know the people who are renting out the properties we manage. We will definitely continue using videos to market our properties post COVID-19 as we endeavour to create innovative ways to serve our tenants & landlords.”
It appears that virtual viewings are here to stay with clear benefits for agents, tenants, landlords as well as the health of our planet and its inhabitants.