The health risk posed by the coronavirus pandemic prevents commercial vendors from presenting vacant office premises to prospective tenants and commercial property buyers from attending viewings. As this pushes the market to a standstill, commercial property agents can shape the behaviour of consumers by offering safer ways to visit properties for sale by virtual property viewings, writes Keith Tully of Real Business Rescue.
The Q3 2020 RICS UK Commercial Property Survey shows that -33% of respondents reported a decline in tenant demand at the all property level. Occupier demand for retail space exhibited a continued drop of -73%, while demand for office space hovered around -66%. As nearly 80% of respondents on a national level reported a downturn in market conditions, this underlines the need for creative thinkers to assemble innovative solutions to maintain market activity and encourage consumers to continue their property search safely.
As trading restrictions during the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 resulted in the shutdown of the property market, the commercial sector is absent of vent up demand, as experienced by the residential sector. Commercial estate agents are embracing virtual property viewing facilities to provide consumers with access to a multitude of properties from the comfort of their own homes.
The rise of virtual property viewings has undoubtedly been fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic as demand for remote viewings reaches unprecedented levels. As employees on furlough temporarily reduce workforce numbers and flexible working makes way for working from home, businesses may consider downsizing office premises, which in turn – reduces overheads. By extending control to employees over their working arrangements, remote working and working from home could be implemented over the long-term and embraced as the new norm.
Virtual property viewing software provides the facility for 3D interactive tours as an alternative to physical viewings. By inserting this option to commercial properties for sale, physical contact can be reduced, and prospective buyers genuinely interested in proceeding with the sale can be quickly shortlisted, filtering out non-proceedable buyers. By providing this self-serve feature, employees can streamline operations, redistribute time allocated for physical house viewings and maximise time spent interacting with serious buyers.
As virtual viewings present the physical world through a screen and at any given location and time, this can be convenient for all three parties, the agent, buyer and seller. By presenting an unfiltered view of a property without commentary from multiple visiting parties and the vendor, selected buyers may prefer visiting a property virtually. By cutting out the physical commute, interactions and pleasantries, the property viewing experience can rapidly speed up.
As demand for virtual property viewings increases, estate agents will need to adapt their offering to prevent their services from becoming redundant. By seizing the opportunity and finding alternative ways to communicate the pros and cons of the commercial property in question, estate agents can help prospective buyers act logically and consider their decisions with an open mind. Estate agents are instrumental to the customer onboarding process by showcasing expert property knowledge and an extensive understanding of the commercial property market. Omitting this from the early stages of customer interactions can be fatal. By complimenting virtual viewings with expert commentary, estate agents can encourage buyers to act now, rather than wait to act post-Covid-19.
Providing a guided virtual viewing can help speed up the sale of commercial property as virtual viewings can be worked around busy schedules and increase viewing capacity which would otherwise be capped to fit around the working day and the vendor. As more commercial estate agents embrace the virtual approach, the investment in such services will likely continue long-term which will also be influenced by the Covid-19 health risk, the financial position of estate agents and the personal preferences of prospective buyers.
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