Although the real estate industry remained resilient through the COVID-19 crisis, it took a big hit when the pandemic outbreak grew worse. Today, real estate professionals have to deal with the cancellation of open houses.
According to a new study, 80% of potential buyers have either postponed or foregone their house hunting. More than half of which said they now hesitate buying properties because they can’t view these in person.
At a time when you need to reassure prospective clients about their purchase, you can’t do so, given the absence of in-person property viewings.
Opportunities amid tough times
While the inability to conduct open house viewings has become a huge setback for property agents, it also paved the way for resourceful, creative platforms to take the spotlight. When physical isn’t possible, people turn to digital.
Today, more real estate agents are embracing virtual open house tours. Although it won’t substitute for the in-person viewings, this has given professionals a way to reach their audience while on lockdown.
Interestingly, virtual open house platforms aren’t a new form of marketing. Many people have been using this prior to the pandemic. However, what’s different now is that it has become the default when it comes to viewings. In fact, even though some states have been slowly reopening, many are still conducting virtual open house tours, so much so that they’re expected to remain popular long after the crisis. In a way, it’s part of the new normal in real estate marketing.
In a previous blog, RealTrends discussed tips for organizing phenomenal virtual tours. In this article, they dove deeper into strategies and platforms that they use for these marketing initiatives. Below are six ideas you can try:
Create your own real estate virtual show.
If you’re able to go to the site without violating stay-at-home policies, film a Facebook live virtual open house right at the property:
- Prepare your smartphone, a stable internet connection, and property information.
- Go through each area of the house, describing the fittings, fixtures, and features.
- Highlight the best qualities such as the granite countertops in the kitchen or the cityscape views from the bedroom.
- When promoting a rental space, show what you as a condo lessor do to fight the pandemic with your tenants–say, wearing face masks or using hand sanitizers, to reassure future renters.
If you want a cleaner version of your video content, however, record the walkthrough then edit it afterwards. Take note of the following steps:
- Prepare a good set of camera equipment, microphone, and lighting.
- Hire a professional video editor who can include music, voice overs, animations, and the like, to your content.
- Once done, use the Facebook premiere option to broadcast.
Pro tip: Post the video tour days before the actual event. Drum up the interest of your social media fans. Publish a date countdown or share with them some clips as teasers a week before the online event. This way, interested parties would really tune in once you release the virtual open house video.
- Spruce up the property with virtual staging.
The staging of a house increases the likelihood of purchase. However, at a time when you can’t bring in your favorite interior designers to your property, let alone replace furniture, it will be hard to pull off a traditional staging. With virtual staging, however, this can be done.
This process involves the use of software to redecorate and improve the look of the space. It will allow you to digitally refresh the walls with new paint, remove the clutter, and introduce new furniture pieces. Include these virtual staging apps and software in your essential tools for virtual open house tours.
Pro tip: When redecorating the property, bear in mind your target market. Reflect their sensibilities in the design of the space. For instance, if they’re a growing family, you may want to open up the floor plan in the kitchen and in the living room, to give the illusion of space.
- Make your floor plan presentation interactive.
While you can certainly give your clients images of the floor layout, why not take your presentation to the next level by making it more engaging. Choose among these apps:
- MagicPlan. Create two-dimensional floor plans, complete with floors, walls, furniture, and other objects, from your smartphone in less than an hour.
- Canvas. Capture a scale-accurate 3D model of the property.
- HomeDesign 3D. Color walls, add textures to surfaces, and duplicate home decor.
Pro tip: Present the interactive floor plans in one of your video meetings with your clients. Think of it as a Zoom virtual open house tour. Your audience will be able to appreciate you talking about the nice, open floor plan of the property when they see it for themselves.
- Compile panoramic photos of the property.
A Google product called Tour Creator allows you to make virtual open house tours using 360-degree images.
- Prepare the list of content you want to capture and your 360 camera. For the latter, the most popular in the market are the Ricoh Theta S, LG 360 camera, Insta 360 One, and Nikon D90.
- After capturing the essential content, make sure to fine tune and edit it.
- Share the tour with your clients using a public link that you can set up.
Pro tip: Embed this virtual open house idea in your website or real estate listings, if possible. This can increase interest among audiences, given that they can see every corner of the house at their own pace. It’s also worth considering this kind of digital tour when showcasing the before-and-after scenes of the property. Potential clients will better appreciate the improvements done.
- Show off the neighborhood through Google Street View.
Extend your 360 photography to the world outside of the property. Use Google’s Street View to capture the neighborhood, an element buyers would definitely want to know about. This is also an effective way to get your real estate on the map, literally, and make it more visible.
- As always, prepare your gear before the shoot. Connect your 360 camera to your phone. Bring a tripod to stabilize images and pick a time of the day when it’s not too dark outside.
- Tap the blue icon from the Street View app on your smartphone to start taking photos.
- Consider people’s walkways to form a good line of sight in photos.
- After shooting, review the images and upload the best ones.
Pro tip: As you do a virtual open house tour in Zoom, talk about the neighborhood where your property is situated, and share your screen to show the Street View. This way, when you say that this or that house is only a five-minute walking distance from a mall or a park, they can actually see it for themselves. In the same way that you boast of the community when engaging in physical viewings, how you conduct a virtual open house tour entails showing off the neighborhood, as well.
- Use a drone camera.
Aerial photographs and videos can also be part of your online tours. In fact, you can also use them when doing a virtual open house tour in Zoom. This kind of content will:
- Add an element of excitement and awe in your digital tours; or
- Highlight the surrounding context of the property, which is especially beneficial if you’re promoting a piece of real estate that has a sprawling outdoor area or located in a mixed-use township
While you can shoot the images yourself, it’s best to hire a professional drone pilot if you’re not very familiar with the technology or the surroundings.
Pro tip: Highlight special features. If there are parks nearby or a swimming pool within the property, capture those. Take note that while you can use this content when running a virtual open house tour, you can create a teaser video from it, as well. Take a few clips and use these to create a social media banner. This way, you’ll make a remarkable impression right away when people look at your page.
Virtual open house tours are the new norm in showing off your properties. The faster you adopt this marketing strategy in conducting business, the better you can ride out the pandemic and serve clients amid the tough times. Take the plunge, learn the technology and techniques, and watch your smart work pay off.
Christopher Britton is an Interior Architect, Home Security Consultant, and a writer. He often writes about real estate, home improvement, home security and privacy, green and simple living, geometric and structural designs, technological home advances, and home design. He is into sports and traveling, too.