Article by Sam Griffin - 14th April 2020

Virtual House Viewings For The Self Isolating Home Hunter

Virtual house viewings are soaring in popularity among house buyers as the UK government brings in tough measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. Among these changes is a shift towards reducing the size and number of social gatherings and a requirement for people to only leave their homes if absolutely necessary. Entire industries are entangled in the coronavirus’ grasp and these protective measures, while rightly designed to diminish the impact and spread of the virus, will inevitably have a knock-on effect that goes way beyond socialising.

Property developers and estate agents are starting to show concern about the coronavirus’ negative influence on the housing market, although – at time of writing – there’re no official projections for exactly how severe a downturn might be. Warning signs have started springing up: property viewings and reservations have seen a glut of recent cancellations and sellers are retreating from the market. That said, the record low interest rate of 0.1% may stir home buyers into refinancing, which is supported by Google search volume for ‘mortgage’ and ‘new mortgage’ soaring in recent days.

But regardless of what might happen in a few months’ time, forward thinking estate agents are helping to protect prospective buyers, sellers, and their livelihoods right away by offering virtual house viewings.

What are virtual house viewings?

Virtual house viewings are videos or live streams of a property up for sale, which showcase the room layouts, the state of the house, and can even answer questions from viewers. They’re essentially a guided tour of a property, with the viewers comfortably behind their computer (or mobile) screens. Everything that you’d expect from a regular property viewing is included without needing to physically be there.

If you have access to a virtual reality headset, these digital tours can replicate a physical tour with uncanny precision.

The primary benefit of virtual home tours during a pandemic is how effectively they maintain social distancing during an activity that usually demands multiple people in close proximity.

With around 1.2m houses being sold each year in the UK and an average of around 15 viewings per sale, that’s a lot of close contact to try and overcome, even in the short-term.

The technology for virtual house viewings has been available for years now, so while it’s not a major leap forward in capability, it does represent emergent business creativity. It wouldn’t be surprising if estate agents continue to offer virtual house viewings even after the current pandemic has passed, as many of the key benefits are still valuable during times of normality.

The additional benefits are huge. Many home buyers can tell within moments whether a property is right for them. A quick video tour, without having to travel anywhere, can save time and easily help you decide whether a property makes the shortlist.

Pre-recorded video tours can be viewed while a tenant is in residence, saving them inconvenience and, perhaps most importantly for businesses, virtual house tours can be cheaper as multiple buyers can be served with the same virtual house viewing at once.

It could even mean that as long as the house looks its best during the virtual viewing, the seller will feel less pressure to keep it pristine at all times for fear of that short notice viewing request.

There are of course benefits that can only be appreciated by visiting a property in person, but as a first viewing option, virtual house tours should prove popular with buyer and estate agent alike.

There are definite challenges imposed by the coronavirus on property buyers, sellers and everyone in between, but this doesn’t mean the home buying process is impossible. Resources like virtual house viewings can make the process easier and safer. Virtual house tours are an effective, popular way of viewing properties while in keeping with social distancing requirements.

What else can I do remotely?

The importance of actually checking the property cannot be understated. Purchasing a new home without seeing it in real life first is generally not recommended. You can likely only get a true feel for a house, its dimensions, character, concerns and peculiarities by seeing it in person.

Nowadays, most steps involved with purchasing a home (apart from physically visiting it – which is vital) can be completed online:

  • Checking your Credit Report. Your Credit Report will be scrutinised by mortgage lenders when deciding whether to accept your application. Making sure your Credit Report correctly reflects your financial standing is crucial. Give yourself plenty of time to check your Credit Report. Your credit accounts, Court Records, Electoral Roll information, and so much more are all recorded on your Credit Report. Errors caused by lenders are rare but can happen. If one of your lenders has made an error on your Credit Report, they will likely take up to 28 days to resolve it. Leaving this to the last minute can cause unnecessary headache and delay. checkmyfile has a dedicated team to guide people through Credit Report queries – if you need us, we’re here to help quickly through secure online messaging.
  • Finding and viewing a property. Searching for properties online has become one of the main ways to browse, filter, and find appropriate homes. Viewing these properties is now easier than ever thanks to virtual house viewings.
  • Applying for a mortgage. Dealing with mortgage brokers and lenders alike can mostly be done online or by telephone. It is no longer mandatory that you sit down opposite a mortgage lender when you apply (although you can if you prefer to when health measures permit). Faster, more efficient methods such as online mortgage calculators and applications benefit both company and customer.
  • Dealing with solicitors. Just like mortgage brokers, solicitors can be contacted by telephone and email, without any need to visit them unless you’d like to.

What about delaying a house purchase?

Regardless of whether there’s a pandemic or not, you’ll likely still need a home to live in. Outright cancelling a mortgage application might not be an option for everyone, so what can you do if you want to move, but now just isn’t the right time?

If you’ve got far enough to receive an Agreement in Principle (AIP), it will remain valid for 90 days. This means you can essentially put off making the formal mortgage application for three months before you’re required to obtain a new AIP. An Agreement in Principle is a written estimate of how much finance a lender believes it can extend to you, based on your current financial situation. 90 days is considered the length of time your financial situation remains ‘current’ – afterwards, you’ll need to resubmit your latest information to obtain a fresh Mortgage in Principle.

If you’ve passed the AIP stage and already have your formal mortgage application approved, there may be some recourse to let you delay the start of your mortgage payments. Some lenders offer deferred starts to mortgages, which usually involve pushing back the start of mortgage payments for a few months.

While deferred starts are more common in the US and Canada, mainstream UK mortgage lenders are encouraging customers to contact them directly so tailored solutions can be made to help alleviate financial pressure caused by the coronavirus. Deferred starts could certainly be an option for some mortgage lenders, so if you’re looking to put the brakes on your mortgage for now, you’ll want to contact your lender directly to see whether you’re eligible.


Time will tell whether virtual house viewings remain popular during times of normality but considering the host of benefits and how user-friendly they are, we’d be surprised if they aren’t used more extensively further on down the road.

Whenever you’re looking to apply for a credit application – especially one as important and thorough as a mortgage – it’s a good idea to check your Credit Report first. This will show you the information prospective lenders will have access to when they assess your application. Any negative markers or discrepancies should be highlighted, letting you know what might cause a problem.

If you’re looking to check your Credit Report online, you can try checkmyfile free for 30 days, then just £14.99 per month. You can cancel easily online anytime. You’ll get access to the UK’s most detailed Credit Report, which collates your complete information from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – letting you see exactly what a lender will see when you apply for a mortgage.

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