The COVID-19 outbreak hit all kinds of industries pretty hard. But with people fleeing the cities for the suburbs thanks to low-interest rates on houses, the real estate industry witnessed a meteoric rise in public attention. It didn't take long for the tech crowd to spot this nascent trend and offer its own version of disruption. This time, it's in the form of Opendoor — which subtracts physically seeing a house from the purchasing process and instead gives you a virtual preview like you're buying it off Depop and the like, CNET reports.
How it works — With profound health risks rising because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the house buying and selling industry has had to open itself to making tours viable for people without affecting their health. Of course, as a result, real estate property sellers have radically limited in-person tours. In the face of that, according to Opendoor co-founder Ian Wong, the company allows consumers to either opt for a virtual tour of the house they want or view a 360-degree inspection of it.
He didn't explain to CNET in detail, so one is left to assume that the company has conducted its own inspection of any repairs needed or recently done. While it sounds convenient for anyone who wants to window-shop for a house, it's hard to imagine the real estate industry pivoting to a full and permanent virtual edition of tours and inspections like this.
Antiquated for a reason — For years now, the real estate and private property industry has resisted a more digital facelift, as CNET also points out. And that's not for an entirely disagreeable reason since buying or selling a house is highly vulnerable to financial risk and ruin. The paperwork, inspection, appraisal, and walkthroughs involved in this industry may sound boring and tedious but the traditional approach inspires more trust than, say, a financial transaction for a full house on a relatively new app.
Sure, the real estate industry will have to digitize, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but Opendoor's current iteration of property buying and selling doesn't seem like it will stick forever.
The silver lining — The good news is that Wong says that tours are not entirely virtual. If you're interested in buying a house off Opendoor and you'd like to check the property in person, Opendoor plants smart locks on homes so potential buyers can check the house at their own pace. The best part is that you'll be the only one inspecting in a given time. Still, a Poshmark equivalent for house-buying shouldn't be encouraged as the likelihood of privacy violations, financial scams via app, and more can run distressingly high.