When I was looking for properties in December of last year, I lost out on a flat to a buyer from Mexico, who bought the property sight unseen. The flat was uploaded to Idealista (the biggest Spanish online property portal) around 9pm on a Monday night and I contacted the agent by email as soon as I saw the alert saying I’d like to see it the following morning. I received an email back almost immediately telling me that it had been taken off the market and the agent, who I knew well, told me a buyer from Mexico City had sent the reservation deposit almost as soon as it went online. He had been looking in the areas for some time and, as apartments at that price point were few and far between knew it was a good buy and so bought sight unseen.
Will we see this happening more as we learn to live with Covid 19?
2 week quarantine restrictions in Spain mean that travel for short periods as to look at property will not be happening for a while, and even if those restrictions are lifted, as the Covid-19 world is constantly changing, people will still probably be travelling a lot less, at least for the foreseeable future.
For the last few years there have been increasing numbers of Latin American clients buying in Madrid; from Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, or Venezuelans flying in from Miami, all looking to buy properties here. While quick flits across the pond won't be the norm for a while, these clients will be back to invest, for all the reasons they loved buying in Madrid before ....and especially if they perceive they will be getting a good deal on a property as prices come off a little. With stock markets volatile, well-priced (and well located) real estate is often seen to be a better investment option. Buyers will be back, but with travel restrictions in place will for the next weeks and months be local or national - or 'virtual'.
What will online buyers be looking for?
• A great location in prime area in a street that people know to be a ´good´street. Prime areas in a capital city would be top of the list.
• A property which is in perfect condition and ready to move into, without having to hire an army of people to tramp through it during this time of social distancing. A property like this can start generating rental income immediately.
• Price. Of course, obviously, the price must be right. That property I saw online was a great little one bedroom flat right in the centre of Malasaña and priced under market value. So it sold. Now , under C-19, nobody knows for sure exactly what will happen people are looking for a good buy.
• An trustworthy agent to do all the due diligence they would usually do, and more. They are your eyes on the ground.
Here in Madrid estate agents have been open now since last week, by prior appointment only and respecting social distancing norms. I've spoken to several contacts in local agencies, and they report on increased interest from buyers wanting to actually see properties now, having made a short list in lockdown. especially in the more in demand areas like Malasana.
Marie Claire Betancourt of On Top Realty Madrid has been using detailed virtual tours of her listings to start the viewing process with her new clients, or using them as a useful tool to go back to virtually show properties for a second or third time to clients who has already started their search with her and have seen a property once and want to ´go back´and revisit.
Susy Corradini , ( Tinerfe Real Estate and Architecture) has, in the past, sold properties in central Madrid to buyers sight unseen even before the crisis of C-19. Many of her clients are long standing clients and friends from her native Venezuela, she says this level of trust is imperative when buying a property from afar. When doing a virtual tour she recommends making sure you see the property portal or entrance, stairwell, elevators and patios, as well as the flat itself, so the client sees every part of the building in question.
As agents adapt to the new way of showings and as technology becomes sharper and virtual tours more professional, we will continue to see agents and clients alike relying more and more on video-conferencing and virtual tours to establish relationships and make well-selected property short lists before they move onto actual showings.
And perhaps, as only serious sellers will be putting their homes on the market, and only people who have done their due diligence and have a real interest in a property will be going to see it in person, it might even streamline the property market for the better.
Let´s see how the market as well as buyer, seller and agents change and adapt over the next few weeks, updates to follow here.