With ‘in-person’ viewings on hold for the foreseeable, many landlords have been reluctant to advertise their rentals.
Back in March, the initial shock of the COVID-19 certainly caused some disruption in the rental market: tenant demand fell by 57%, and the number of new properties becoming available dropped significantly (Zoopla).
Nonetheless, despite this dramatic decline, activity in the property sector has continued, and we’re beginning to see a rise in tenant enquiries.
With digital agreements and video call technology, landlords are still able to successfully let their properties while safely following the government’s rules on social distancing.
We understand that virtual tours and viewings may be new territory for even the most experienced of landlords – but hopefully, this article will help you to get started.
How are landlords feeling about virtual viewings?
We reached out to a few of our landlords who are currently advertising with us to find out how they felt about conducting virtual viewings. Here’s what they thought:
- Some said they want to be able to advertise their property with a video tour
- Some landlords say they are happy to “meet” a tenant via video call (perhaps on Whatsapp, Facetime or Zoom) and would be comfortable with letting to a tenant they haven’t physically met in person
- Some were concerned that they would not be able to get a video of the property because the property is occupied. A suggestion was made that the current tenant could record a video on the landlord’s behalf
- Some landlords were worried that a video may not accurately describe the property and could cause issues with tenants further down the line.
So, do you share any of these thoughts or concerns?
From what our landlords have told us, it appears that most are firmly on board with the idea of carrying out viewings online, but for some, it’s not the appeal or the effectiveness of online viewings that have them worried – it’s how to actually do it.
If technology isn’t your strong point, the idea of filming a decent video of your entire property and putting it somewhere on the internet can certainly be an overwhelming prospect. However, with the free tools available online nowadays, creating a short video that showcases your rental is far easier than you may think.
A Landlord’s Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Video Tours & Viewings
Javi, a landlord currently advertising with LettingaProperty.com, tells us how he put together his online video viewing simply by using his smartphone and the power of the internet.
To film my video, I used my iPhone 8 to record short, simple videos of each room of the property. I made sure each video was smooth and clear and used my phone’s Wide Angle Lens to give my video a professional look (this part isn’t essential, but most modern smartphone cameras have this feature).
I chose to film several videos and put them together, although some people may find it easier to simply film their entire property in one take.
I stitched my videos together using the iMovie app on my iPhone (Similar free apps such as FilmoraGo or Vid Trim are available for Android users). This allowed me to easily insert my short videos, put them in order and trim them down if needed. You can even add some background music if you really want to. Then, I exported the video in the highest resolution possible and saved it to my Camera Roll.
To allow people to watch my video, I uploaded it to YouTube. All you have to do is make a free account – or ‘channel’ – and follow the steps to uploading a video, such as adding a title and description. If you haven’t already, you can edit your video directly via YouTube and add an audio track if you want to.
At this point, YouTube will have to process your video – which can take a long time (4-6 hours). Once it’s processed, you will be able to share the video using the website like (URL) generated by YouTube.
Once my video was fully uploaded to YouTube, I then added it to my property listing on LettingaProperty.com by adding the link to the Video Tour section on my advert (image below).
Rightmove have also enabled videos to be included in property listing on their website. Find out more here.
Since uploading the recording to his advert, as of today, Javi’s video has received over 190 views online which has led to receiving an application to let it and the tenants are currently under referencing.
Video Viewings: Top Tips to Remember
So, there you have it. A simple explanation, from one landlord to another. Here are a few extra things to bear in mind when making your video:
- Slow and steady wins the race – keep your camera/device steady and take your time to show every room in the property.
- Don’t leave anything to the imagination – Your video should include everything that a visiting tenant would usually see (even boilers cupboards, storage spaces, driveways and garages).
- Short and sweet – while you should include everything you can, it doesn’t need to be a full-length feature. Ideally, your video should be a maximum of 2-3 minutes long.
- The good, the bad and the ugly – Don’t shy away from showing parts of the property that need fixing up. It’s better to be completely transparent than to advertise your property as something that it’s not.
How I Successfully Let My Property During COVID-19
It’s completely understandable why some landlords would be put off advertising their rental while the country is on lockdown. But the truth is, while the rental market is certainly a little different to what it was this time last year, there are still people looking to let.
While the entire situation is challenging for everybody, it seems that these last few weeks have given people time to adjust to change and come to terms with their new reality.
As a result, the dip in rental interest that we saw back in March is beginning to turn around, with Zoopla reporting that tenant demand has increased by 30% since March’s 57% decline. I’ve experienced this increase in interest first-hand with my own rental property.
I advertised my two-bed apartment in Worcestershire on the 1st of April and received my first enquiry in a matter of hours and had 15 potential tenants contact me over the following days.
I sent each person a video tour I had recorded on my phone and answered any follow-up questions via Whatsapp.
After just one week, three long messages and a telephone conversation, my final applicants asked to go ahead with the next steps. We started reference checks, they paid their holding deposit, and now they’re set to move in on the 1st of June.
The Legal Implications of Virtual Viewings
You may wonder, what are the legal implications of a tenant agreeing to let a property without actually seeing it in person?
Property law specialist David Smith of JMW Solicitors has provided us with some valuable clarification:
There is no reason why an agreement would not still be valid merely because of the lack of a physical inspection. Certainly, a video-only tour would increase the risk of a tenant claiming that something was hidden and then using their rights under the CPRs (The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008) to unwind the agreement. However, this is like any claim for unwinding and would be fact-specific in terms of looking at whether the item was hidden and was material.David Smith, Partner at JMW Solicitors
In these circumstances, anyone interested in your property is relying solely on the photographs, description and videos that you provide.
If you don’t share any problems or issues that your property has, potential applicants will be unable to make an accurate and informed decision on whether they’d like to rent your home.
More poignantly, failing to reveal your property’s flaws or purposely covering up defects in your video will be a breach of the Property Misdescription Act.
If you choose to carry out a video viewing, you should make every effort to give a true representation of your rental and take the time to cover every part of the property.
Ready to advertise?
So, if you were debating whether to give the whole video thing a go, hopefully, this article has given you the confidence you need to get started.
Once lockdown has been lifted (whenever that will be), it’s likely that there will be a surge in rental properties on the market. So, even if you do intend to ‘wait it out’, now is a great time to get everything prepared for your advert and give yourself – and your property – a valuable head start.
If you have a question about video viewings or want to find out more about advertising, feel free to give our team a call on 0333 577 8888 or email us at [email protected].