Zillow Group Inc.

07/30/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/30/2020 16:58

Sight unseen: A new trend in home buying grows with the arrival of virtual technologies

Posted on Jul 30, 2020

Sight unseen: A new trend in home buying grows with the arrival of virtual technologies

Digital tools accelerated by changing customer needs set the stage for the future of home shopping

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The pandemic keeps many of us close to home, but home shoppers are still moving ahead with their lives, now buying their biggest financial asset without setting foot in the door. One reason: growing confidence in virtual technology that lets home buyers take home tours remotely, from their phones, tablets and even PC-connected televisions.

A recent Zillow survey finds more than a third of Americans (36%) say they are more likely to try to buy a home entirely online during the coronavirus health crisis.

Chad Lail is among them. You may know him as World Wrestling Entertainment's superstar Jaxson Ryker, a regular on FOX Sports Friday Night SmackDown. Lail and his wife Stacy bought their first home in Mooresville, North Carolina, a suburb of Charlotte, while living nine hours south, near WWE's hub in Orlando, Fla.

'I couldn't just drop my job and drive up to the Carolinas and see a house in person,' Lail says. So he got on Zillow and looked at a home in a neighborhood he knew from visits with his cousin. 'We're like, 'Nice house. Let's maybe put an offer in and see what we can do.''

'I'm not a man of emotions too much, but I was definitely filled with tears'

Chad Lail

Buying a house sight unseen might seem crazy, but not for Lail. That's in large part because he had a trusted guide throughout the process: Russ Bogue, a Zillow Premier Agent with The Redbud Group, who Lail also found on Zillow.

Agent Russ Bogue (L) with home buyers Chad and Stacey Lail

'Russ had five-star reviews (from previous clients) and I could tell he's passionate about what he does,' says Lail. Bougue took the Lails on a live virtual tour using an iPad. 'He showed us each and every room, what to expect. The way technology is now, it's so advanced that you can see the depth of a room or how big a room really is or how well-lit it is.'

For buyers like Lail, as well as home sellers, COVID-19 has accelerated adoption of virtual shopping tools, to help families unlock the next chapter in their lives. In fact, one-third of home shoppers surveyed by Zillow say even after the pandemic ends, they would still be more likely to try to buy a home entirely online. The same holds true for home sellers.

Agent giving a live virtual tour to a family in another location

Live remote tours by independent agents have become a standard part of the sight-unseen home purchase experience. In addition, Zillow provides technology to generate 3D Home virtual tours through a free mobile app, providing shoppers another safe, convenient way to experience a home. The number of 3D Home tours created with Zillow technology rose more than 750 percent in the month after many stay-at-home orders went into effect.

Zillow is using the virtual tour experience as a launching pad to create the future of home shopping. Among the innovations to come:

  • Digital floor plans: Zillow engineers are using artificial intelligence to automatically generate floor plans based on Zillow 3D Home tours. In the coming months, the automated floor plan generator will be part of Zillow-owned homes for sale listings in all 24 Zillow Offers markets. In time, digital floor plans could be a feature on all Zillow listings that also have 3D Home virtual tours.
  • Virtual staging. Zillow is building features to help shoppers better envision their lives in a home, and simplify the process of getting there. Virtual staging will let shoppers see how furniture looks inside a home, starting in select markets.

After his virtual tour, Lail had visions of transforming the home's upstairs loft into his game room. It turned into a playroom for his three-year-old daughter instead. But he's okay with that, and happy to be the guy who may help future home buyers see what's possible through virtual technology and a good real estate agent on the ground.

'I'm not a man of emotions too much, but I was definitely filled with tears,' Lail says about the first time he physically walked through the front door of his new house. 'I was like, 'Wow, this is my home. This is my first home I've ever bought.' It definitely met my expectations.'

Learn more about Zillow's home-shopping technologies.