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Top tips on virtual viewings when buying or selling a home

Virtual viewings are on the increase according to a new study by the UK's technology-led estate agent, Purplebricks, with one in six buyers willing to make an offer without setting foot in the front door.

To help people navigate the new virtual housing market, Purplebricks has partnered with interiors expert and author of Mad About the House, Kate Watson Smyth, to give buyers and sellers top tips on virtual property viewings: 

There are a variety of ways you can view properties virtually:


A live virtual tour is where the seller literally walks a buyer around their home from their phone or tablet, showing the house room by room, talking through how they use the space and answering the buyer’s questions as they go. It gives a personal insight into how the seller has used the house. Here’s a live virtual viewing recorded by one of Purplebricks’ recent sellers, influencer Sophie Hannah Davis from Whaddon, Buckingham: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAfaXJ217OQ&feature=youtu.be

  • A virtual tour can be pre-recorded and hosted on the agent’s website and could be a filmed walk-through, or a montage of photos, put together by the agent with a voiceover, like the following example: https://www.purplebricks.co.uk/property-for-sale/5-bedroom-detached-house-strathkinness-st-andrews-282935#/view/videotour

  • There is also the 3D Matterport tours service which is currently being piloted in Scotland. You can click on the exterior or interior of the house and rotate the view through 360 degrees, like this: https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=sRbgTKcmbAq)

  • Kate’s virtual viewing tips for buyers:

    Don’t judge a book by its cover: Look beyond the décor – too ugly and it might put you off and too pretty and you might forget to look at what’s really going on in a room. Décor can easily be changed; you need to look at the ‘bones’ of the house to decide if it’s right for you.

    DIY disaster or delight? While introspecting the “bone structure” of the property, ask are there lots of original features? Does the fireplace work? Where are the radiators positioned in the rooms and will your sofa have to sit in front of one? Are there floorboards under that carpet?  

    Warm windows: Check the windows; 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.

    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. 

    Glance outside: Can you see views from the windows? You might be looking over a car park or a busy shopping street and if it’s noisy outside, this is often one of the biggest deterrents when it comes to buying a property and something that might be hard to establish on a virtual viewing.

    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. 
    Size of furniture: Don’t forget to look at the size of the furniture – is that a two-seater sofa or a three-seater? How big do you need it to be to meet your needs? How many people can sit round 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). Is the fridge big enough and if not, is there space to add a bigger one? What is the state of the oven and might it need replacing in a hurry?

    Investment points: Bathrooms and kitchens are the rooms we most often want to change, but they’re also the most expensive.   You might have to live with what you buy for a while, so have a close look at all the appliances. In the bathroom, have a look at the state of the grout and limescale and decide if it needs to be replaced. 

    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?

    Essential room for storage: One of the main things people forget to ask when viewing a property is ‘where is the storage?’ It’s always key, so make sure you keep an eye out in every room. Start with the hall – where are their coats? Where would you put yours if you were actually going round to visit? Where do they keep the big, awkward stuff like the vacuum cleaner and the ironing board?

    Kate’s virtual viewing tips for sellers:

    First impressions still count: buyers may not be walking up the front garden path but they will be starting in your hall. This sets the tone for the rest of the house, so make sure it’s tidy with no piles of coats, bags and shoes spilling out.  Make sure the doors to the other rooms are open so that it’s as light as possible.

    Social savvy: Buyers may well be Instagram-savvy and wary of what you aren’t showing or what is lurking out of shot. Make sure there’s a full 360 pan of each room so they can see the corners and understand the space and know that you aren’t hiding a broken window or a pile of laundry that has nowhere to go. 

    Spot check: 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, home office, or guest room.

    Neat and clean: Tidy up the obvious things first: make sure the pictures are straight on the walls, the cushions are plumped and the curtains fully pulled back (this lets in more light).

    Touch up tidy: A bit of routine maintenance helps achieve a house sale: make sure all the handles are present and fixed on, touch up any scuffed skirting boards and paintwork.

    Spotless views: 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.

    How to sell room-by room

    The Sitting Room

    • While virtual viewers may not be able to smell fresh flowers, they still look pretty. Make sure any big leaves are shiny and remove any brown or droopy leaves. 

    • The fashion for completely depersonalising a room has gone now but don’t fill every surface with pictures of your cute kids and pampered pets.

    • House buying is still aspirational as well as practical; make sure your coffee table books reflect that.  

    The Kitchen

    • Storage is key in this room. Make sure at least one cupboard is tidy (and open it to show viewers). Declutter the worktops so keen cooks can see there is plenty of prep and storage space.

    • High-end appliances can help sell a kitchen so show off any that you have and while you can’t tempt viewers with the real smell of fresh coffee and baked bread, a coffee machine and high quality toaster may help.

    • If you have a pantry or a utility room then tidy it and show it off. Buyers want to know where they can store the ironing board, the muddy boots or washing machine.

    The Bathroom

    • Work on the aspirational side of this room. Decant soap and shampoo into pretty jars, hide all the spare loo roll and make sure there are piles of folded, and colour-coordinated, towels. Add a stylish radio and a couple of candlesticks and if you have a dimmer then show it working.

    • If the grout is stained, then go over it with a grout pen to freshen it up.


    • Make sure the bed is smoothed flat and the pillows plumped large. Put a pretty lamp and an interesting book on the bedside table and invest in pretty bedding and throws (you can always take it with you).

    • Show any built-in storage and make sure it’s tidy inside (put the bulk of your clothes in a suitcase in the car if you need to).

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