Over the last two years, the pandemic has changed the way we do things. While the Safe Management Measures (SMM) can feel restrictive initially, it has driven us to adapt to the situation we have on hand and got us to embrace digital solutions more.
For the property sector, this includes changing how we do property viewings. At the beginning of the pandemic, due to the Circuit Breaker, we weren’t able to do physical viewings. So the sector had to leverage technology to adapt and pivot to virtual viewings.
Virtual viewings: Challenging at first, but can be time-saving
Instead of bringing potential buyers for physical viewings, agents had to conduct virtual viewings on various digital platforms. These viewings could be conducted through platforms such as Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime, WeChat or Google Hangouts (until it was discontinued last year).
“The biggest challenge for me would be the preparation work that needed to be done for virtual engagements with clients,” Tasso Chan, Associate Senior District Director at SRI tells us.
He explains that with virtual viewings, he needed to prepare more materials to present to his clients. In comparison, physical viewings allowed him to have more flexibility and two-way engagements with his clients.
Reflecting on how property viewings have changed over the past two years, Jacqlyn Lee from ERA Realty shares, “As a real estate advisor, adapting to change is what keeps us relevant, valuable and at the forefront of the competitive edge.”
“Regardless of these measures, in order to stay competitive, it requires adaptability and sharpening our skills to future-proof our business.”
She also explains that agents these days are also expected to stay up-to-date on new tools, technology advancements and industry regulations.
“As someone on the ground, I am well equipped with tech gadgets for photo and video-taking and creating 360 virtual tours, to facilitate viewing of properties more effectively.”
Tasso goes on to share an interesting silver lining that has come out of this change. “Buyers and agents are now accustomed to the new viewing habits. In my opinion, this has helped save more time for both buyers and agents as much of the groundwork is done before viewing any showflat or resale units.”
Still, physical viewings are here to stay
Leveraging technology may have helped us adapt and get through the pandemic. But there are some things that digital solutions can never truly replace. When it comes to property viewings, digital solutions like Zoom and virtual tours can be helpful and complementary, but they can never truly replace the experience of physically visiting and inspecting the shortlisted homes.
After all, property purchase is one of the most significant purchases that people make. For most of us, we want to be in the physical unit (or at least a life-size mock-up of the unit) to get a feel of it before putting in a huge sum of money and signing a 20-year mortgage for it.
So the major relaxations of the SMM over the past few weeks are definitely good news for the property sector and potential buyers.
This includes increasing the group size to 10 people and the capacity limits to 75% for large events and settings from 29 March onwards. All these limits would be removed from 26 April onwards.
Whether it’s buying a new launch or resale unit, the easing of the SMM means that more people can go for a physical viewing at any one time. We can now bring along more family members to the showflat or resale unit, allowing everyone to be more involved in the property making decisions.
“Definitely, the increase in group size has eased a lot of restrictions. It was a real challenge as family members and couples might not be able to view together as a unit. It restricted discussions and productivity,” Tasso remarks.
A clear sign of this positive impact was that 3,700 visitors turned up for the preview of North Gaia for its first-weekend preview on 9 and 10 April, almost two weeks after the ease in restrictions.
“It has been more than two years since we last saw such a crowd size in a preview, which is encouraging for the industry,” he tells us.
On top of property viewings, he shares that the relaxation meant that agents could now hold physical seminars, especially as physical engagement plays a huge role in earning and building trust in the industry.
With fewer travel curbs, more property purchases by foreigners are expected
The relaxation of the SMM isn’t the only major change that will help with property purchases.
From 1 April onwards, Singapore allows fully vaccinated travellers to enter the country without having to quarantine. And from 26 April onwards, these travellers will no longer have to take a pre-departure test before arrival. All these make it easier for foreigners to come to Singapore to buy properties.
“We are expecting the real estate market to be even more active as Singapore is opening up to the world,” Jacqyln tells us.
Tasso shares that while agents have yet to see a significant increase in foreigners coming here, they know that a number of foreigners are already making plans to travel in. He shares that he will have a better grasp of the situation in the next one to two months.
Tasso believes this increased rate will have little impact on property purchases by foreigners. One reason for this is that Singapore’s taxation is relatively lower or equivalent to other countries.
“It is still worth investing in Singapore property for 1) a peace of mind (given the country’s safe haven status), and 2) the property price here is still very attractive compared to places like Hong Kong.”
He adds, “Foreigners predominantly buy into the CCR. In the past three years, this segment has been largely muted, seeing the smallest growth as compared to the RCR and OCR. So even with the increased ABSD, there are still huge opportunities within the CCR as we have yet to reach our previous peak. The prices are still fairly subdued.”
What are your thoughts on virtual and physical viewings? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook post.
If you found this article helpful, 99.co recommends 0.3% drop in condo prices, rising rents after last December’s cooling measures and New private home sales up by 20.7% in March 2022.
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