“We used to call London Moscow-on-Thames because of all the wealthy Russian buyers, but now agents are calling it Beijing-on-Thames,” says Jeremy Gee, a London estate agent.


1st January 1970


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What should you ask to see on a virtual viewing of a property?

Ask the right questions on a video tour and you wont have to visit as many houses

Happy stamp duty holiday! Now that you have a reason to move, you have probably noticed that practically every property you encounter online comes with the offer of a virtual viewing.

Most will be a video call, on apps such as Whatsapp or Zoom, often with an estate agent on the line. These have become popular with buyers who are shielding and others who are simply unwilling to PPE-up for 12 viewings at the weekend. For many it makes more sense to whittle choices down over the phone and save in-person visits for favourites.

Other buyers complain that they don’t feel in control on video calls. The view is dependent on the camera skills of whoever is holding the phone, or the agent just won’t stop talking.

“Buyers have bespoke needs and should be confident enough to ask the questions that will let them see whether the property meets their requirements,” says Phillippa Dalby-Welsh, co-head of prime central London sales at Savills.

Often this means asking about “hidden” features such as underfloor heating, air con, utility rooms, all-important storage (if they have a loft or a cellar, ask to see it) and the boiler. And while you’re there, can you turn the shower on so I can see what the water pressure is like, please?

It may feel distinctly un-British making such demands of others in their home, but if you’re not there then how else will you find out? Outside space is vital too. Don’t just ask to see it. Dalby-Welsh says that you should ask where the sun falls in the morning and the afternoon, where guests are likely to park and, in the countryside, whether there are footpaths nearby as well as where the property boundaries end.

Jonathan Penn, director of the Ipswich branch of Jackson-Stops, advocates asking about schools, neighbours and shopping, and recommends asking to see views from the main windows.

“Don’t be afraid to ask the agent to stop talking and open the windows so you can try and check for street/traffic noise,” says Camilla Dell, from Black Brick, a buying agency. “If it’s a flat, make sure you get to see the common parts, the lift — all vital and will tell you a lot about the quality of the building and how well it’s managed.”

For the seller it’s a chance to listen to what buyers want and, according to Dalby-Walsh, also a chance for “vendors to sell the lifestyle the buyer is looking for, not just the bricks and mortar.”

360 video tour by Pixangle. House in Charlton, SE7, available to rent, openrent.co.uk.

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