Even though lockdown is easing retirement housebuilders know it will be some time before home hunters will feel confident to view their developments.
This is why the most dynamic are using technology in innovative ways to offer isolating homebuyers a virtual alternative.
Virtual and video tours mean older people isolating at home can ‘walk through’ apartments, facilities and gardens via their ipads and laptops, meet the staff, hear existing homeowners talk about life there and get a real idea of what to expect without leaving their front door.
Operators like Enterprise Retirement Living have created a variety of excellent videos accessed via their websites to show off their developments.
ERL offers virtual tours of all three of its villages, Mount Battenhall (pictured above) in Worcester; The Red House in Ripon and Boughton Hall in Chester.
Prospective buyers can examine the details in the kitchen and bathroom fittings, see how light the rooms are together with the size and number of windows and how much storage is available.
They are also offered virtual home appointments and video calls with sales consultants.
“We are still engaging with the public person-to-person, albeit remotely, and through our website,” explains sales manager Dee Hall. “We feel it’s very important at this time to connect with people, to reassure them that we are here to help them, and to give them a flavour of what it would be like to live in a retirement village community.”
Interested buyers can book a one-to-one virtual home appointment with a sales consultant who will share via email and directly on the video call, relevant floor plans, CGIs and brochures, so all questions can be answered.
Inspired Villages was ahead of the game when lockdown struck as James Cobb, Group Sales and Marketing Director explains:
“We pre-empted the Government’s lockdown measures and brought in a professional team in early March to film a virtual tour of each of our villages including communal facilities, grounds and show homes.”
Now, anyone who is interested can either do a virtual tour themselves via Inspired’s website or book a personalised virtual village tour with a member of the sales team, who will talk them through the tour over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Facetime and Facebook Messenger.
“The feedback has been fantastic and we are predicting a spike in enquiries,” he adds.
“Our Virtual Village Centre now has 9,500 followers and the Inspired Voices video has had 182,000 views.”
Cinnamon Care Collection’s Emerson Park retirement village in Hextable, Kent, has featured members of staff in its virtual tour of the one-and-two-bedroom apartments.
This not only does this give prospective homebuyers a view of the village but also lets them meet some members of staff which can be key in decision making.
The website also offers a 360 degree virtual tour of the village which lets you measure space for your furniture and gives you a real idea of the size of rooms. Both video tours can be viewed at https://www.cinnamoncc.com/care-homes/emerson-park/
Audley Villages, which is offering two-years free-management fees to those who complete on one of its properties by 31 August 2020, has several virtual options on its website, one featuring existing owners talking about their experience of living at an Audley property.
Managing Director Kevin Shaw, reckons it is essential to optimise technology to engage with buyers. “Virtual appointments, face-to-face via video calling platforms like Zoom, are a great way of keeping sales ticking over during the lull in the market.”
At Audley’s newest scheme, Nightingale Place in South London, interested buyers can make virtual appointments, and access video tours, external fly arounds, and CGI visuals, all from their own homes.
“We’ve also been virtually inducting our new team ready to run the village, to ensure everything is fully in place and Audley’s usual high standards are maintained when we open the doors to owners within this brand new village,” adds Kevin Shaw.
“It’s critical that older homebuyers moving into empty properties should be supported during this time, and that potential buyers can continue viewing properties and preparing to move in. Strengthening digital services and making them more accessible to older people is only going to pick up pace as the situation unfolds.”
What to look for on a virtual tour
You should regard a video tour in just same way as if you were visiting a property in real life. Here is a list of things you should look out for.
- Check the quality of fixtures and fittings
- Size of bathroom/wet room
- Is flooring non slip?
- Check size of windows and how much light there is?
- Can you see any built in cupboards and storage space?
- What kind of view is there – balcony?
- Do you like the décor of communal areas?
- Can you imagine dining in the restaurant/having a drink at the bar?
- Are the gardens lovely enough to tempt you to go for a walk?
- Most importantly – does it feel like home?