While real estate already employs virtual and remote selling, now agents and sellers alike are trying to pivot most of the process online. With news changing rapidly about COVID-19, real estate professionals are tasked with adjusting quickly to new realities. As the rest of the country goes remote, from work to school and birthday parties, what about selling real estate?
The good news is that online marketing and selling are safe, with many tools already in place and easily accessible to any agent. Be sure to check the CDC for health facts and comply with any local guidelines to keep yourself and your community safe.
Shifting to Digital
Open houses have shut down across the country to abide with social distancing, and sites such as MLS have removed the option to list open houses. Virtual open houses are popping up in their place, and can reach even more people than a traditional open house.
One option is to do a live virtual presentation, using slides and video of the property. Make the showing more social with video chat, giving clients the option to use just voice or video for their preference. Communicating face-to-face has a greater impact during this time. Schedule as many as you can during a day to reach a wider audience.
Another option is to film an open-house walkthrough and host it online so buyers can view at their leisure. Create an option for them to easily send you any questions they have, such as a contact form.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the different apps for remote contact. While Zoom is very popular currently, other video conference options include the new Google Meeting, which has auto-generated subtitles. Facebook Live, FaceTime, WhatsApp, and Skype may also already be used by potential buyers.
Any virtual tour should not only highlight the key, sellable features, but show the details buyers would inspect on a walkthrough. This means baseboards, faucets, and outlets. It’s also good to showcase the neighborhood and greater area, as digital means reaching potential buyers from all over.
Have as much video face-to-face contact as you can for other steps in the process, such as reviewing offers. Now is also a good time to be in touch with your peers to find out how people are problem solving and share collective knowledge.
3D, Virtual, and Interactive Tours
Even before the whole country went remote, more and more listings were making use of advanced digital experiences. Photos can only tell so much, but a virtual tour can show someone what it feels like to be in the house, with comments that showcase key features. 3D, interactive floor plans give a client a sense of power, with all the information about the property at their fingertips. Matterport is one of the latest 3D tech product for house tours. Virtual staging is a perfect option right now, and an economical one.
One interactive program comes from Evolution Virtual, who creates 360° bubble tours, interactive 3D models, and drone footage. Their web portal Sage hosts everything you would need for remote showings, including online presentations and open houses.
“Given the current environment, our real estate clients are focused on finding sales and marketing tools that can create engagement with agents and buyers - remotely. We've enhanced our product portfolio to include 3D interactive solutions for project websites and bespoke online platforms that provide prospective buyers/renters experiences equivalent to those offered at in-person sales galleries.” - Alex Riera, Evolution Virtual
These days there is a greater amount of virtual literacy, and people are favorable to online house hunting. Virtual tours and features are particularly suited to luxury real estate, as agents aim to reach international buyers. Digital ads are a tried and true way to capture more interested buyers.
Foreign Buyers Ready to Act
Foreign buyers already make use of remote real estate, although it's rare for someone to buy a property completely site-unseen. Other countries that were hit by COVID-19 before the U.S. will be ready to be active in the market again sooner than domestic buyers.
Chinese buyers are already re-entering the market, with COVID-19 cases dropping since February 12 and currently at nearly zero. Chinese nationals made up 11% of all international buyers of U.S. real estate last year, and bought the highest dollar amount of investment. According to SupChina, in February there were 350,000 virtual tours per day by Chinese agents and buyers, a 35% increase from January. This shows tremendous interest in remote buying.
It’s hard to say if site-unseen will become more common, but reducing the amount of human contact involved is essential for safety.
As everyone is adjusting, make sure to stay up to date on best practices. Be in touch with everyone involved in the process about establishing safe contact and communication, including inspectors, appraisers, title, escrow, and attorneys. Now is a great time to use mobile or online notaries. It will also be helpful to include clauses in contracts for pausing deals, and being flexible with buyers.