07 Dec 2020

Interiors Expert Kate Watson-Smyth on Virtual House Viewings

Virtual viewings are on the increase, as a new study* by the UK’s technology-led estate agent, Purplebricks, shows one-in-six buyers would make an offer on a property without setting foot in the front door.


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To help navigate the new virtual housing market, Purplebricks has partnered with Interiors Expert and Author of Mad About the House Kate Watson-Smyth to give top tips on virtual property viewings. As the owner of a London Victorian property, which she renovated and styled, Kate is keen to pass on the tricks of the trade.

Kate’s virtual viewing tips when selling a renovated property

1. Finish the biggest jobs first
First things first, buyers want solutions and a clear path to a beautiful home – not a confusing problem to solve. Naturally, it’s best to present a completed renovation, but if that’s not possible, then at least try to finish the big tasks, or complete a renovation stage, rather than; for example, presenting a half-painted room.

2. Tell the story of your house and its renovation
Buyers will be interested in your personal experience, and this gives you the edge over brochures or clinical property description. Introduce your property before starting the virtual tour – say how old it is, how long you’ve lived there, what work you’ve done, and what you love about it. Even showing the prospective buyers photos of the various stages you went through during the renovation would help add that special touch.

3. First impressions still count
This sets the tone, so make sure it’s tidy with no piles of coats, bags and shoes spilling out and tidy away any DIY tools, paint pots or cleaning materials. If you have original flooring such as tiles or hardwood floors, ensure you keep coats and bags off the floor in order to showcase the original features at their best – try adding a row of shaker-style pegs all along the wall to provide storage for coats and bags.

4. Let in the light
Make sure the doors to the other rooms are open so that it’s as light as possible – this is particularly important for period cottages which can be dark because of their small windows and low ceilings.

5. Show a full 360º perspective
Buyers may well be Instagram-savvy and wary of what you aren’t showing. Give a full 360º pan of each room so they can understand the space. Pan up and down as well, so you can highlight key features such as exposed beams or reclaimed tile floors. Explain where you found key pieces such as roll-top baths, or cast-iron Victorian fireplaces.

6. Acknowledge problem areas
If you have a small, dark room, dress it to be cosy and inviting and show how you use it – e.g. as a kid’s TV room or guest room. Point out further renovation options, e.g. where a stud wall could easily be removed to create one large room instead of two smaller ones.

7. Tidy up each room
Make sure the pictures are straight and the cushions are plumped. Explain the renovation you’ve done and how you styled the room to fit your chosen theme. Show the love and attention you’ve put into your home, so the buyer will assume it has been cared for, with time and money spent on it.

8. Moving maintenance
A bit of routine maintenance helps achieve a house sale. Your house may have been perfect when you renovated or re-decorated it several years ago, but it pays to do a refresh before selling: make sure all handles are present and fixed on, touch up any scuffed skirting boards and paintwork.

9. Clean the windows
You want your home to appear light, bright and well-cared for. While this may not actually show on camera, it will add to a general sense of cleanliness and a cared-for space.

10. Plan ahead
If your buyers are serious, have architects’ plans and drawings handy, so you can explain the renovation that’s been done. Before and after photos are always fascinating, but be selective, as showing a ramshackle hovel may be counter-productive.

Kate’s virtual viewing tips when buying a property to renovate

1. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Look beyond the decor as this can easily be changed; you need to look at the ‘bones’ of the house to decide whether this is a renovation project you want to take on, with the potential to achieve your dream home.

2. DIY disaster or delight?
While introspecting the ‘bone structure’ of the property, ask if there are lots of original features. Does the fireplace work? Are there floorboards under that carpet? Ask what the buyer would change about the house as this will give a perspective on any issues that need to be solved.

3. Warm windows
Check the windows and count how many there are; are they double glazed, uPVC? These things can be expensive to add or replace. If the property isn’t double glazed, this will impact the temperature in the room, and single glazing will inevitably let out a lot of heat, as well as letting the cold in.

4. Orientation is key
Find out which direction the property faces – north or south? South will be hot in summer and the sun might shine in directly (lovely, but it will fade your sofa) whereas a northern light will be steady all day long.

5. Ask the seller to show you the outside
What is the view from the windows? How close are neighbouring properties? If you’re interested in the potential to extend, ask whether the house has been extended before and by how much, so you don’t get any nasty surprises further down the line with a house that’s already been extended to the limit.

6. Look into the lighting
Are the lights on or off? Does the room you are seeing need the lights on all day, or is it filled with natural light? You don’t want a gloomy, badly lit room if it is one you’re going to be working from.

7. Size of furniture
Don’t forget to look at the size of the furniture. How big do you need it to be to meet your needs? How many people can sit around that kitchen table? Can you add a bench or fit in a bigger one? Count the kitchen cupboards (and compare with what you already have).

8. Investment points
Bathrooms and kitchens are the rooms we most often want to change, but they’re also the most expensive to renovate. You might have to live with what you buy for a while, so have a close look at all the appliances.

9. Water pressure
Ask about water pressure in the shower (if it’s a live viewing, ask the property seller to turn it on). Is there room for a bigger shower or a freestanding bath?

10. Essential room for storage
People often forget to ask where the storage is, and it’s always key. Start with the hall – where would you put your coat if you were visiting? Where do they keep the big, awkward stuff like the vacuum cleaner? Is there room to create built-in cupboards or to convert a smaller room into a walk-in wardrobe?

*OnePoll study of 2000 UK adults, August 2020

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