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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

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Last week Gerilyn Manago moved into an apartment she never stepped foot in, in a neighborhood she had never been in before. She moved from Los Angeles to New York but did not have the time to fly to New York before her move.

What gave Ms. Manago the confidence to rent an apartment sight unseen was the live, FaceTime walk-through with her broker.
Ms. Manago had many false starts to her NYC housing search from LA. They included sending friends to scope out numerous apartments only to discover the listing photos were not of the actual units (e.g. finished unit photos but unfinished units in reality) and dealing with unknown realtors who aggressively tried to sell their services while ignoring her list of requirements.
Then Ms. Manago contacted Esther Patten, a broker from Compass who she had met when she lived in New York last. Ms. Patten happily agreed to work with Ms. Manago remotely by using FaceTime walk-throughs.
A residential street in Astoria, Queens A residential street in Astoria, Queens
Ms. Manago expanded her search from the Upper East Side to AstoriaBrooklyn and New Jersey in order to find more reasonably priced apartments. When she last lived in NYC she didn’t want to live above 90th street but this time around Ms. Manago understood the market changed and she had to look further to get what she wanted.
21 percent of homebuyers have made an offer on a house they never set foot in.
“I wanted a one-bedroom apartment for under $2000 per month with newer appliances. I lived in a walk up before so I was open to that. I had a bathroom that was completely blue before, so I wanted something more updated. My last apartment only had a kitchenette and a really old oven that was next to the closet, and I never used it because I was always concerned my clothes would smell like the food I cooked. I wanted a modern and well kept building with a real neighborhood feel.”
Ms. Patten found two apartments that fit Ms. Manago’s list of requirements perfectly. Both apartments were in Astoria, a neighborhood where Ms. Manago had never been but her friends assured her a lot of young professionals were moving to.
 
 
 
 
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This was the second time in a week that a client contacted Ms. Patten about securing a home sight unseen. Although this may seem uncommon or even unthinkable to some buyers, according to Time.com, “21 percent of homebuyers have made an offer on a house they never set foot in.”
Ms. Patten and Ms. Manago started communicating with emails and on the phone and then made appointments to see two Astoria apartments via FaceTime.

Ms. Patten texted Ms. Manago when she was in the Astoria neighborhood and described what she was seeing as she walked to the apartment. Then, when she got to the building, she FaceTimed Ms. Manago and started the tour.

“It was like 'MTV Cribs'-style,” Ms. Manago explained, as her broker described all the features of the neighborhood and unit as she walked through.
Donna Renna, a broker with Douglas Elliman, has a buyer from Italy who requested FaceTime tours. “I send my buyer the listings and he reads the floorplans and details. I make appointments with him and the broker. I walk in the building and he’s with me. I show him hallway, I take him into the elevator (some have wifi). It gives him the whole experience. I bring him into the apartment step by step, the hallway, the landing, the foyer, the kitchen. I show him all the details. He is Italian and I speak Italian so we can discuss things that we don’t necessarily want the broker to hear in Italian.”
Renting or buying site unseen relies heavily on a trusting relationship between broker and client.
Both brokers, Ms. Patten and Ms. Renna, believe renting or buying site unseen relies heavily on a trusting relationship between broker and client. Ms. Renna has known her client for years, “He’s a very good customer and he’s purchased with me before.” With previous relationships, clients can trust that the broker knows their taste and will present units based on their requests.
The New York Post recently wrote about a woman who paid $1.4 million for a pre-construction Tribeca unit with “sweeping views” only to discover the apartment had a view of a brick wall. New York City is a complicated real estate market and the value of good representation, in addition to brokers who go above and beyond, is high.
The unit the two brokers showed did not have video tours. According to Ms. Renna, it’s not common to have video tours until a certain price point (above $1.5 million, for sale).
FaceTime tours are interactive. Ms. Patten explained, “My client wanted to see inside of the closet, she wanted to see the bathroom and she wanted to see the view outside of the window. I could zoom in on any detail she wanted.”
The question arises, how do virtual tours differ from FaceTime tours?
FaceTime tours are interactive. Ms. Patten explained, “My client wanted to see inside of the closet, she wanted to see the bathroom and she wanted to see the view outside of the window. I could zoom in on any detail she wanted.”
Ms. Patten described a situation with a different buyer who she took on a FaceTime tour and, “at the end he asked, are we alone? And when I said yes, he said I want to make a full price offer.”
FaceTime
FaceTime tours differ from video tours in that they are not “directed’ by the selling agent. Often buyers feel that video tours show the apartments in their best light versus a FaceTime tour where they can explore all the nooks and crannies and, sometimes, things a seller would prefer to not show.

Ms. Patten says, “I often find that virtual tours can be distorted and make it difficult to truly see the space. FaceTime is interactive, it’s live, talking and discussing what do you think? Clients will say, ‘Wait step back, let me see the kitchen again. I want to see the view to the south.’ My buyer and renter both had specific requests while on FaceTime.”

Ms. Manago loved that she could ask her broker to “open the oven door to see if it would open into a window frame.” With video tours, you see only what the selling broker wants you to see.

“It’s a little extra work but worth it for really good customer,” Ms. Renna believes.
Seeing a place live is ideal but FaceTime tours are a good substitute to have peace of mind.
Ms. Manago admitted that “seeing a place live is ideal but FaceTime tours are a good substitute to have peace of mind.” In her opinion, the one downside is that when the FaceTime tour is over, “you do not have a recollection of what you saw. You kind of want something a little more permanent after the Facetime tour. Next time, I would ask to have a video in addition to the FaceTime tour.”

But in the end, Ms. Manago got exactly what she wanted. Her apartment has new appliances, a big closet, the neighborhood feel she was looking for, and no surprises.
Contributing Writer Michelle Sinclair Colman Michelle writes children's books and also writes articles about architecture, design and real estate. Those two passions came together in Michelle's first children's book, "Urban Babies Wear Black." Michelle has a Master's degree in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and a Master's degree in the Cities Program from the London School of Economics.
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