Like many prospective homebuyers, Han Bing was unable to go apartment hunting since the start of the year because of the coronavirus outbreak. So she went on livestreamed and virtual reality tours instead.
“Online house viewing is very efficient as a screening method, especially during this period when we aren’t allowed to go out,” said Han, who was looking to purchase an apartment in Beijing. “I only need to set the scope and budget, and I get returned a wide range of choices.”
Across China, daily viewership of apartment tours surpassed five million in the past month, leading to 120,000 online sales, according to Fang.com, a US-listed property portal.
VR apartment tours saw a sevenfold increase in viewership during the Lunar New Year holiday period, while sales resulting from these tours rose 43% compared with a year ago, according to Beike, another real estate platform in China.
The real estate agency business is just one of many industries that have had to adapt after the coronavirus outbreak led to unprecedented measures to contain the flu-like disease.
The closing of schools, work-from-home arrangements and practice of social distancing has led to a surge in demand for online learning, videoconferencing, and meal and grocery home deliveries.
That may further accelerate a shift in online adoption in what is already the world’s biggest e-commerce market. Consumers bought $1.2 trillion worth of goods and services online in 2019, compared with $465 billion in 2015, for an average annual growth rate of more than 25%, the statistics show.
Last month, the China Real Estate Association circulated a notice encouraging industry participants to start online platforms and provide necessary services through online tools.