How to make ‘virtual viewings’ work and prepare for the post-lockdown property bounce – The Sun

THE Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.

Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.

Jane Hamilton, property expert

WHETHER you are selling, buying or renting, it is impossible to view a new home at the moment.

But property experts are predicting a “lockdown bounce”, with a rush of moves unleashed once quarantine ends.

To prepare, agents are launching virtual viewings to showcase properties.

Whether via video call or pre-recorded and posted on property portals, these are proving incredibly popular with would-be home movers – with some even making offers.

Eight per cent of the homes currently listed on property portal Zoopla offer a virtual tour.

Estate agent Trevor Tackie, of Trevlyn Properties in Maidstone, Kent, says: “People buy designer clothes from Net-a-Porter they have never tried on or touched – but they feel confident because they have seen the video and they trust the seller.

“That e-commerce view is coming to property.”

Here is what you need to know . . . 

HOW DO VIRTUAL VIEWINGS WORK? There are four main types . . .

3D cameras: House-hunters can take a self-guided tour, using their computer to do everything from standing at the kitchen sink to measuring the size of wardrobes.

Agent video: Some agents take their own videos as they walk around a property to replicate the feel of a traditional property viewing.

Virtual appointments: This combines a pre-recorded video tour with the agent being live online to answer your questions.

Self-seller tours: Some buyers are offering FaceTime tours where they will “walk” you around the property on a live call.

HOW CAN VIRTUAL VIEWINGS HELP ME? If you are selling or renting out, you can embed a virtual tour on property portals.

Tag existing features such as “granite worktops” to help buyers find your home.

If you are buying, you can find a home from anywhere in the world – and it makes getting a second opinion from family much easier.

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Buy of the week

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Listen out

QUOTES for sound-proofing have seen a 43-per-cent spike during lockdown as homeowners look to create quiet spaces in which to work.
The figures come from and Tarquin Purdie, founder of the builder comparison site, said: “With kids at home 24/7, plus our neighbours, many have realised how thin our walls really are.”

Judge Rinder

Q) MY daughter is a third-year university student.

She was living in a privately rented house with four other students but, with tuition cancelled, they have all returned to their families.

She has lost the part-time job that paid for her rent.

The landlord of the house is demanding their rent gets paid.

My daughter does not have the funds.

Her father is on reduced hours and I have been furloughed, so we are unable to help.

Is there any support for students in her position?

She is trying to complete a dissertation but, with these financial worries, it is very stressful.

Bernadette, Manchester

A) I am furious to report there is hardly any legal help for your daughter – or thousands of other students in a similar situation.

The current legal position is especially unfair.

A number of halls of residence owned and operated by the universities have simply waived their rental charges for this term.

They have either decided to do this because they think they are in breach of contract, or are just using their discretion.

Private landlords who have assured short-hold tenancies – like your daughter will have signed – are under no legal obligation to waive any rental charges at all.

As it stands, your daughter owes this money and could be sued for it in due course.

This is utterly unacceptable but the answer lies with the Housing Secretary and the Education Secretary, who must sort this out at once.

I will be doing my best to make them.

Q) JUST before the lockdown, I was having a kitchen fitted.

All was good until the fitter admitted he had cut a worktop wrongly.

On the same day, B&Q closed its stores and purchases could only be made online.

Unfortunately I still need that worktop, and another one, fitting – and the fitter has been unable to buy what he needs online using click-and-collect, which has been for essential maintenance items only.

I agreed at the start to pay the fitter £800, before he cut the worktop incorrectly and everything went into lockdown.

I have paid him £600 for the work done, which I can’t fault.

And he has promised to complete the job when he can.

But I am reluctant to pay the outstanding balance.

B&Q stores have now reopened but nobody knows when we will be out of lockdown and I only have one functional worktop instead of three.

Do I have any legal recourse to withhold part of the balance I owe – say £50 to £100 – due to the inconvenience?

Vicky, Peterborough

A) As soon as your fitter admitted he had failed to cut the surface properly, you were under a legal obligation to give him a chance to fix the problem.

The fact he has been unable to do the work is not his fault – but he must come back and do it as soon as he is able to.

Assuming he does, you will not be legally entitled to withhold any money.

I should add that, unless you have promised to pay all monies upfront, it might be wise to wait until the work is properly finished before you pay the full balance.


Q) I HAVE been told in writing by my NHS specialist not to go to work for three months, due to the medication I am on for osteoarthritis.

My boss said he would pay half my wages.

Then I got an email from the company secretary saying they did not accept the specialist’s letter.

After a series of emails, my boss said he would pay me half for one further week, then statutory sick pay for the rest.

Can’t he furlough me so I could get 80 per cent of my salary?

Andrew, Shrewsbury

A) This isn’t straightforward. Firstly, if your boss promised to pay 50 per cent of your wages for three months and you agreed, it seems to me you may have a binding contract the firm cannot retreat from.

Either way, if other staff at your firm have been furloughed, there is no legal basis for refusing to extend this to you over your medical condition.

The firm would need to explain in writing why they singled you out.

Get them to do this at once.

Mel Hunter, Reader's champion

Q) I BOOKED a train to Disneyland Paris with Eurostar, paying £514 for the travel tickets.

With trains no longer running there, for the foreseeable future, I asked for a refund – but Eurostar refused.

It would only offer me vouchers, which I needed to use by September.

I was also told I would have to pay more if the new tickets were more expensive.

Can I insist on Eurostar giving me my money back?

I am unlikely to want to travel within their timescale.

I fear that if I don’t accept the vouchers within a few days, I won’t receive anything.

LINDA, St Ives, Cambs

A) I’ve had many people asking for help to secure a refund for cancelled travel.

While the industry is under huge strain, travellers should only rebook if it suits their circumstances – and no one should be railroaded into taking a voucher.

In your case, Eurostar said it couldn’t treat you differently to other customers, which is right.

But when I contacted the train company, it confirmed anyone whose train has already been cancelled is entitled to a refund.

This option is not obvious on its website, though.

Passengers with trains cancelled before June 1 are instead encouraged to use an e-voucher to rebook before September 30 for travel before the end of March next year.

Eurostar told me: “We understand some customers will not be able to travel in the future, and we are able to arrange a refund when requested.

“This is in line with EU regulation on passenger rights.

“Those seeking refunds will need to wait until their train is cancelled.

"This is typically closer to the date of departure.

“After they have been notified of a cancelled train, they can contact us through our website.”

I got things back on track for you and managed to get the £514 back in your account within a few days.

Q) WE added wifi to our Vodafone contract but after six months the connection was very slow and faulty.

Vodafone could not fix it and cancelled the broadband but now the phone reception is bad.

I get cut off between calls and texts will not send.

I’ve called Vodafone 15 times trying to get this sorted but keep getting told they are checking the technical side and will call me back.

They keep saying there are more tests to do but this has been going on for three months and is driving me mad.

When I ask to cancel my contract, I’m told they are still looking into the problem.

DIANE, Cardiff

A) It’s so frustrating when you’ve tried to sort a problem for so long and got nowhere.

Although you were tied in to a contract, I felt you had been given the runaround here and Vodafone had not moved things forward.

I asked for its help and the company offered you a new SIM to see if this would solve the problem.

But you had already lost faith in the service and insisted on leaving your contract.

Vodafone agreed, waiving its fee and wiping your last £30 bill.

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