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Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about spreading the coronavirus, many real estate agents have been offering virtual home tours. This allows prospective buyers to see properties they might otherwise have to delay viewing, but it might not enable them to get the full picture.

How do Virtual Tours Work?
Some agents produce and edit prerecorded video tours that are available online for potential buyers to view. In other cases, agents schedule private virtual tours in which they walk through a house answering questions and responding to requests from buyers in real time. 

Each approach offers benefits. With prerecorded tours, agents can highlight important features, make sure the lighting is good and the audio is clear, and edit as necessary. With a live, interactive virtual viewing, prospective buyers can ask agents to focus on specific areas of interest. 

Even if a real estate agent does an excellent job of noting key points and providing essential information, a video may not allow potential buyers to understand the layout of the neighborhood, traffic patterns, noise levels and a community’s overall vibe, so a drive through the area is a good idea. 

How to Handle the Homebuying Process During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Ask the real estate agent questions during the virtual tour, if possible, or submit them via email later. It may be difficult to get an accurate idea of the size of the rooms based on a virtual tour, so ask for exact dimensions and a floorplan. Inquire about any known problems with the property. Get as much detailed information as you can and raise any concerns directly. 

If you’re nervous about the idea of buying a house without seeing it in person and you don’t have to move right away, make any offer contingent on a physical inspection. If you must move soon because of a new job or for some other reason, you may not be able to wait to view a house in person before you commit to buy. If possible, gather more information online, walk or drive through the neighborhood and talk to neighbors.

What to Expect When Shopping for a House During the Coronavirus Pandemic
You may experience delays in the inspection and appraisal processes since those require workers to visit a house in person. They may be reluctant to do so if a house is still occupied. Getting a mortgage application and other documents processed may also take longer than usual since offices may be closed and businesses may have employees working from home.

In some areas, real estate deals can proceed without in-person meetings. Some state and local governments allow buyers and sellers to sign closing documents electronically to avoid having to meet face to face. In other localities, that is not permitted. 

The coronavirus has significantly changed the way real estate transactions may happen. Your real estate agent can explain what to expect and guide you through the process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

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