It goes without saying that COVID has changed the world — and that includes the world of real estate transactions. For buyers and sellers here in Chicago and around the country, pandemic restrictions changed how people did their research, looked at properties, and completed transactions. One of the biggest trends to emerge in 2020 was the explosion of popularity for virtual home tours. 

Many signs indicate that virtual tours will remain popular, even after things get back to normal in the years ahead. And while these virtual experiences and showings can be useful, it’s important to remember that they will never be able to tell the full story about a property. For that, it will still be important to bring in a licensed professional home inspector! 

The Rise of Virtual Tours

Virtual tours — which might include prerecorded or live, broker-led tours of a home — have been around for some time. But the pandemic led to a huge surge in their popularity, which seems poised to continue long after COVID is a distant memory. 

It’s easy to see why. Virtual tours are convenient, letting buyers look at prospective properties from the comforts of home — no traffic, no hassle, no getting out of your PJs! They can be a great first step in the real estate process, letting potential buyers sort through homes quickly and efficiently. In 2020, virtual tours also led to more completed real estate transactions than ever before. 

During one week in April, about one quarter of REALTORS® surveyed by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) said that their clients put contracts on homes “without seeing the property in person.”

In another survey reported out by the NAR, 24% of consumers said that they would be “willing to buy a home without seeing it in person,” and 30% would be willing to rent one. In a sign that virtual tours are here to stay, younger consumers are the most comfortable with using only virtual tools, with 29% opting for virtual over in-person showings and 21% saying that COVID-19 “has made them more likely to move into a home sight unseen in the future.”

What a Virtual Tour Can’t Show You

For prospective buyers, virtual tours can be useful — but they will never be able to show you everything you need to know about a property. 

As Wendi Arriz put it in U.S. News & World Report

As helpful and alluring as these videos are for the online shopper, buying a home is more complex and requires a multifaceted evaluation. After all, home videos or virtual tours are selling tools that the listing agent produces to sell a property – the goal is to feature the home in its best light.

In other words? It may be helpful to think of these tours as marketing materials, rather than an objective and unbiased evaluation and review of the property. 

For anyone interested in purchasing a property, there will always be little details that you can get from an in-person experience that are harder, if not impossible, to glean from a virtual tour — things like sounds and smells, the “nitty gritty” details and personality of the home, and a sense of the building or surrounding community. 

And above all, a virtual tour will never be a substitution for the unbiased and thorough examination that only a home inspector can provide. 

As Arriz writes,

When buying a house, you always want an inspection to determine the condition of the roof, heating and cooling system, mechanicals and other parts of the home… Do not let a beautifully produced video with elegant music convince you that the home is perfect and forgo the proper due diligence.

As another real estate expert explains to, “sight-unseen” buyers should not neglect a home inspection, “so you know exactly how much work the house needs and if you are comfortable handling those repairs.”

The Importance of a Professional Home Inspection After a Virtual Tour

Whether you fall in love with a property during a virtual tour or after an in-person tour, a home inspection is a vital part of the process here in Chicagoland. 

Why are home inspections so important? According to nationwide data collected by the home information and services site Porch, nearly nine in ten buyers used a home inspector’s services before making their most recent home purchase. 86% said that their inspector identified at least one problem that should be addressed, including issues with essential systems like the roof, the electrical, or the plumbing — all elements that would be incredibly hard to assess by video alone. 

A home inspection is a non-invasive visual examination of the readily accessible systems and components of a home. During an inspection, your inspector adopts an unbiased eye as they look for structural and mechanical concerns and potential safety hazards, while also helping to determine the age of major systems around the property including the water heater, roofing, and HVAC. They will try to determine the components of the home that are not performing properly, as well as items that are beyond their useful life span or are unsafe. They will also try to identify areas where repairs may be needed or where there may have been problems in the past.

During a standard home inspection, your inspector will generally observe more than 200 elements throughout the interior and exterior of the home. An inspector typically spends between two to three hours evaluating the property, and may recommend further evaluation if problems or symptoms are discovered. An in-person home inspection will always give you a better sense of the age and functionality of a home’s components and systems, and how those systems all work together. 

A home inspection is one of the best ways to understand a home’s condition, habitability and safety, helping you gain a better perspective on the features and conditions of the property. As a result, a home inspection is one of the very best forms of protection buyers can have against purchasing a home needing repairs that they may not be able to afford. Your home inspector will also provide you with important tips, educational resources, and even professional referrals that you can use to protect your investment moving forward. 

Keep in mind that inspections are not pass/fail, and are intended to provide you with a better understanding of property conditions as observed at the time of the inspection — not to tell you whether or not to buy the property. This is a conversation to have with your real estate team and the seller, with your inspection results in hand. 

What to Expect with Windy City Home Inspection

Curious about what goes into the home inspection process here in Chicagoland? Looking for guidance or insight from an experienced home inspection team? That’s where we come in. 

With Windy City Home Inspection, buyers and sellers can expect a thorough, diligent inspection that never cuts corners. When searching for the right home inspector, it’s important to find someone you can trust — and that’s why we are here for you. The inspectors at Windy City Home Inspection, Inc. are licensed by the State of Illinois, certified, and insured. Each home inspection is backed by our Warranty and Protection Plan. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on our superior customer service. If you ever have questions, even years after your home inspection, we will be here to answer them — even if it means returning to your home.

At Windy City Home Inspection, Inc., we perform inspections to the highest standards — yours. Backed by a consulting team with more than 60 years of experience, Windy City Home Inspection is committed to excellence. Have a question? Let us help.