House hunting during Chinese New Year? Virtual viewings are the key

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With Chinese New Year just around the corner, many people are looking forward to celebrating with family and friends. The festival marks the beginning of a new moon and new lunar calendar, and what better time to get into the mood of all things new by buying a new house?

Discretionary spending has seen a steep decline, with travel plans constantly being in a state of uncertain flux and people holding off going on vacation. During the past two years, many people have saved money that would have otherwise been spent on big-ticket holidays.

They’ve also had ample time on their hands to trawl through property listings on online portals such as 99.co to find their dream home, with many turning to virtual viewings to narrow down their search.

Restrictions dampening the festive mood

During pre-Covid, the festive season would see families dressed in their finest threads, carrying oranges and flocking to visit the various households of friends and families.

However, with the highly transmissible Omicron variant rearing its ugly head, the festivities will be more muted, and visitations will be few and far between.

Safe management measures and restrictions are still firmly in place, with dining in at restaurants limited to just five people. Many families, especially those with elderly parents, are opting to spend it at home to reduce potential exposure from dining out with others.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong says an upcoming wave of infections is expected and that the government does not intend to relax safe management measures at this point in time.

In-person viewings not possible

Current restrictions mean that only five visitors are allowed in each household per day, and each person should not visit more than two households per day. All, if not most, will prioritise visitations from close friends and family.

If you’re house hunting during this period, it will be near impossible to visit and view property units in person with these hard restrictions in place.

More opting to take things online

With in-person viewings being both troublesome for owners to prepare for and finicky for agents to schedule, majority of agents are adapting by tapping on social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram Live to broadcast live home walk throughs. There are also 360-degree virtual house tours you can take to have a better feel of the property.

On 99.co, you can filter properties based on listings that have video tours available. Should you desire a more detailed walk through, you can contact the agent and arrange a remote viewing.

ALSO READ: House hunting advice: Is People's Park Complex a good choice?

What you can do

To get the most out of virtual viewings, here are some tips you can follow:

Ask for floor plans. During video tours, it’s hard to get a true sense of space efficiency in houses. Various camera equipment such as wide-angle lenses and cameras might make a space feel larger than it really is. Ask the agent for a floor plan with detailed measurements descriptions so you can get a better sense of how you would utilise the space in the unit.

Prepare a list of questions. To pre-filter out the duds from the winners, have your criteria checklist prepped. Here are some questions you can consider asking:

  • When was the last renovation
  • How are the neighbours like (Do they smoke, are they noisy, do they have kids etc)

If you’re looking at private properties such as condos, some relevant questions would be:

  • How crowded are the facilities during specific times
  • Are the facilities well maintained
  • How accessible are the lifts during peak traffic

Don’t rush. If you want to linger over a specific area of the house, don’t be afraid to request for it. Sometimes agents glaze over negative aspects of a house, such as an oddly shaped room, by breezing past it or doing a quick pan of the camera. Don’t spare any details because you’re afraid to come off as picky or demanding.

Want to look into the kitchen cupboard and see how the hinges swing? Ask for it. That corner of the house looks suspiciously warped from cracking tiles? Let’s have a close up. Is that water damage you spy creeping up from the corners of the bathrooms? Give it a second look over.

Check out the estate. If you still want to spend your Chinese New Year scouting for properties in person, you can do so by doing your own CNY visiting of sorts to the estate. Take a walk around the block and check out the nearby amenities where you can get groceries, dining and entertainment options, as well as the distance to the nearest MRT stations.

If you prefer to explore from the comfort of your home, you can use Google Maps and Google Street View to get a better feel of the area.

ALSO READ: 4 things you should know before buying or renting properties based on a virtual property tour

Pros of virtual viewings

As a buyer, doing virtual viewings comes with many pros. Everything can be from home, behind a screen. You can schedule as many viewings as you want to your heart’s content and spend the entire day sitting in front of your computer taking tours around houses of strangers while munching on CNY snacks (pants optional).

It’s convenient and low-stress – you don’t need to subject yourself to spending several hours driving around Singapore, walking around in the sweltering sun or unpredictable rain, or racking up points on your Grab account.

At the end of the day, buying a house is probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make in your life. We recommend using virtual viewings to shortlist a handful of properties to view in person once the Chinese New Year festivities have died down and house viewings can resume. This is because unlike new launches and projects, resale properties don’t have a Defects Liability Period.

This article was first published in 99.co.