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Virtual valuations: Would you buy a house without seeing it?

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Going the distance: The coronavirus has pushed homebuyers and agents firmly online

Going the distance: The coronavirus has pushed homebuyers and agents firmly online

Going the distance: The coronavirus has pushed homebuyers and agents firmly online

In the late 1990s at a time when less than 10pc of the Irish population ventured online, I wrote an article for this newspaper about the future of the internet for marketing and selling homes online. In those days the house buying process involved homebuyers dropping into an estate agent's 'shop' in much the same way as they did to the butchers or to the chemists. Brochures were printed on paper and photos were glued on to them by hand. Ultimately, making your mind up involved visiting many homes.

In the 1990s article I speculated that home hunters of the future would not only search for a house online, but could also conceivably end up buying a property in principle before seeing it. Many said these claims were fanciful.

Today portals are our means of search. Online film links, 3D and virtual view technologies have for some time helped us familiarise ourselves with homes. Online bidding has allowed us to buy a property and recently, technology has even come to the fore to allow us to the completion of the transaction through the legals and deeds, all to be conducted virtually. And we started buying homes unseen, off the plans, during the boom years.