Home & Leisure

Buyers and renters are moving into homes without seeing them first

Katie Park, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Home and Consumer News

PHILADELPHIA -- Bryan Locasale listed one of his rental properties in Philadelphia's Callowhill neighborhood last week on Zillow. Twenty minutes later, a woman contacted him about it. In an hour and a half, she submitted an application. Within 36 hours, she had signed the lease, and the place was hers.

His new tenant, he said, never saw the place in person.

She had, instead, remained at home in Fishtown during the stay-at-home order mandated by the coronavirus pandemic and studied his listing. He credited the unusually fast deal largely to the pictures a previous tenant with a knack for photography had taken and given him to use to advertise the one-bedroom, 11/2-bath house with a den.

"Prior to the pandemic, you would give one or two photos of each room," said Locasale, director of sales for a Lancaster-based printing company who also owns another rental property in Philadelphia's Callowhill neighborhood and one in Conshohocken. "But now it's important to put up multiple photos to get multiple angles and layouts so people get a true feel of the place."

Even as Gov. Tom Wolf announced this week that real estate companies could resume in-person showings, inspections and related business in counties where the coronavirus is still a severe threat, notably in Philadelphia, the demand and expectation for virtual real estate activity is expected to remain high, some real estate agents and landlords said.

"I would be doing in-person tours," Locasale said, "but I think a lot of people won't be comfortable with them."


In such cases, excellent camerawork is imperative.

Live or recorded video, immersive 3-D tours, and large, high-resolution photos can attract a raft of interest in a home during the pandemic, while open houses have been prohibited, and few want to show or visit a property in-person, real estate agents said.

Unflattering angles, small and grainy photos and videos, or no visuals at all can keep a property on the market for months.

If an online property listing included a 3D tour, 55% of 2,000 U.S. homebuyers and sellers said, they would consider buying a house sight unseen, and almost 80% said they were more likely to work with a real estate agent who used 3D tours, according to a survey earlier this year by the real estate data firm Matterport.


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