“Internet Open House” from the Jackson, MS Clarion Ledger – clarionledger.com Mississippi’s #1 website
By Reporter – Jeff Ayres
December 11, 2008
To comment on this story, call Jeff Ayres at (601) 961-7050
People shopping for homes can get a closer look at their potential purchase in minutes with a click of a mouse. Real estate firms have taken advantage of technology allowing buyers to take virtual tours of some homes.
“We have a lot of clients who move from out of town and say, ‘I’ve got two or three days to look,’ ” said Sheri Bryan, managing broker at Crye-Leike Realty in Ridgeland. “If you don’t have pictures or a virtual (listing) of a home, they won’t buy a home.”
Some virtual tours provide images that allow potential buyers to zoom in and out providing a greater sense of a room’s dimensions. More sophisticated programs allow viewers to seamlessly walk through the home from a computer.
Chris and Michelle Stratton used virtual tours when moving to the area from Tulsa, Okla. “It gave us the (advantage) of being inside the home” without doing an actual walk-through, Chris Stratton said.
The couple used the feature to limit their search, visited a few homes before settling on a four-bedroom home in Madison. With the online world used for everything from paying bills to ordering pizza and movie tickets, it makes sense homebuying should become an increasingly digital affair, said Doug Maselle, president of Century 21 Maselle & Associates. “With the click of a mouse, you can locate (any house) you want. I can’t imagine not having it,” he said.
He said the firm has sold a number of homes strictly through online tours, to out-of-towners and locals alike. But he strongly encourages people to do a physical walk-through to become intimately familiar with a house and any potential problems. “You cannot see the flaws, all the little details (without a walk-through),” he said.
Madison resident Betty Looney said a physical tour of a home she and her husband viewed caused the couple to continue their search. “If you can see a floorplan, tile and that kind of stuff can be replaced, but you can’t go and change what the inside of the house is like,” Looney said.
Nonetheless, she says virtual tours are incredibly helpful in allowing people to get a sense of how compatible a house is for their needs and belongings. Tours often feature pictures taken from multiple angles, so customers can get a better sense of the room and what might be able to fit in it.
The service allows agents to familiarize themselves with a home before taking clients on a tour. The tours also can help streamline the buying process for real estate firms. Maselle said customers research properties on their own, when before people would want to search the listing service on an agent’s computer.
Crye-Leike uses a virtual tour for all its listings. The company partners with an online company for the virtual tours. The real estate agency pays the online firm, which specializes in real estate tours, about $100 a year for the service. Real estate professionals are finding other tech-savvy ways of providing information to potential buyers.
Crye-Leike includes phone numbers on its for sale signs that provide detailed information on a property. Agents are paged and e-mailed about all calls to that number. Bryan says she’s sold two homes in the last six months through this method. Maselle sees no reason why virtual tours and other online features designed to make homebuying easier won’t gain even more of a foothold in the future.