More developers turn to virtual showflats during Covid-19 period, but some buyers aren’t sold

“Local buyers are so used to feeling and touching the finishes at a showflat that they would prefer to wait till after the circuit-breaker period is over and like to visit the showflat in person”. Photo Piermont Grand EC by CDL

While developers have been using virtual tours and videos to market their projects for some time now, the use of these tools has increased lately due to the government’s tightened measures on physical interaction during the Covid-19 outbreak, reported The Business Times.

And now with the current circuit breaker situation, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has also facilitated the use of electronic payment of booking fees as well as progress payment by property buyers to developers.

Since the circuit breaker measures kicked in, all property agencies and salesperson were advised by the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) to suspend work that requires physical interaction and to adopt online or digital tools where possible.

Developers too, were told to close their showflats and avoid face-to-face marketing activities during this period.

As such, ERA Realty Network has teamed up with developers to support its property agents with a portfolio of video and virtual tours for 59 executive condo and private residential projects, including the likes of Affinity at Serangoon, Meyer Mansion, Piermont Grand and Haus on Handy

Including 360-degree photo shots at showflats of another nine projects, ERA has virtual tours for a total of 68 projects. 

Read: Why Now Is a Good Time to Buy a Property

ERA Realty Network CEO Jack Chua revealed that their agents are also equipped with an app that uses technologies such as Advanced Google Map, 3D floor plan model and Drone Interactive. “The ERA Pro app provides our agents with the latest information on which units in a project have been sold, which are still available and at what prices, along with details such as floor plans. Agents can share the information with buyers through email and WhatsApp,” he said.

SRI’s Co-founder and Managing Partner Bruce Lye noted that while their agents have received a lot of appointments for a virtual walk-through from potential buyers, there remain some gaps.

“The main challenge with virtual tours is that our local buyers are so used to feeling and touching the finishes at a showflat for instance; some of them have given us feedback that they would prefer to wait till after the circuit-breaker period is over and like to visit the showflat in person,” said Lye.

Aside from virtual marketing, the process in documenting property acquisitions and payments are also being ironed out.

To facilitate the booking fees’ electronic payment as well as progress payments by buyers to developers, URA’s Controller of Housing (COH) pre-approved amendments to the standard sale and purchase agreement (SP&A) and Option to Purchase (OTP), to include payment by MAS Electronic Payment System (MEPS), Fast and Secure Transfer (FAST) or General Interbank Recurring Order (GIRO), in addition to existing modes via telegraphic transfer or cheques or cashier’s orders.

Intending buyers will be provided by developers with the housing project’s detailed information and the unit (termed “particulars, documents and information” or PDI) prior to the issuance of an OTP. The PDI was previously given as a physical document that should be signed by the buyer.

However, COH said that developers can now provide the intending buyers with the digital format of the PDI provided they can authenticate the buyers’ identity and secure their written acknowledgement of the PDI prior to accepting the booking fee.

Agents and lawyers shared that the OTP and SP&A still need wet ink signatures under the current rules. This means that there is still a need for the physical document.

Despite the social-distancing rules, this requirement can be complied with by using couriers. A property developer’s authorised person can print out two sets of the OTP and sign them.

The courier will then deliver them to the buyer, who will give the former the downpayment in the form of cheque along with the OTP’s acknowledgement set. The courier will then bring them back to the developer.

The actual processes, however, may differ among developers. During the circuit breaker period, the transactions’ documentation and progress payments to the developer may create administrative problems for conveyancing lawyers.

“Law firms may still provide some conveyancing services where time is of the essence or with milestone deadlines which have been served prior to the start of the circuit breaker, but frankly how essential is it to process documents relating to property sales entered into from 7 April?” said a senior conveyancing lawyer.

“If showflats have to be shut for one month, we should also be able to stop the processing of payments for property purchases for the same duration. Otherwise it defeats the purpose of having a circuit breaker, since some physical contact may take place.”

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Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg

 

This post was originally posted on Property Guru Property Market News Section