Property managers have seen increasing cases of people applying for properties based purely on listing photos and videos, or on the recommendation of others.
Sam Berryman of Kinsale Property Group had one listing where four people wanted to apply for a one-bedroom apartment in Chatswood, on Sydney’s lower north shore, sight unseen.
“Within the first 24 hours of listing, I had well over 300 people view the listing on realestate.com.au. I probably had about 12 email inquiries and probably about 30 phone calls,” she told RPM.
Several people emailed or texted Ms Berryman to ask for applications, saying their family members already lived in the building and they didn’t need to attend a viewing.
“To each of these inquiries I did respond back with, ‘happy to show you the unit on Monday, but I can’t give you an application before then'.”
Ms Berryman said none of the people who tried to apply sight unseen showed up to view the unit, but the trend was becoming more common in Chatswood.
“I would never rent a property to someone who had not viewed it first. I’m even dubious when they want to send someone along on their behalf because there are always faults found and the tenants never like the property once they get there,” she said.
“I think the time will come when it will have to happen, but there needs to be a clause somewhere that basically says if you rent it sight unseen, there needs to be some protection for the landlord as well.”
Hermione Gardiner from Real Plus said this was the direction the rental market was heading, especially in major cities around the world.
“With the addition of technology, virtual inspections, 3D floor plans, live video walk throughs – it won’t be long before a tenant doesn’t need to see a rental property [in person],” she told RPM.
“While the technology is too expensive now and mainly reserved for sales, it will get cheaper and easier.”
Ms Gardiner said it was similar to booking a hotel room and if there was sufficient information available, tenants could be happy to rent without first attending a viewing.
“Especially as we get busier and more reliant on technology and you can already book rental inspections online,” she said.
“However, from a property manager's perspective there is the fear that a tenant would move in and complain about everything.”