The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting all aspects of normal life, including people’s priorities when it comes to selling and buying real estate. So it’s no surprise that a health crisis such as this one is affecting the work of real estate agents. However, the real estate industry has received a major boost from the integration of information technology. Agents have adopted an array of ways that help them provide sophisticated services to their customers during these times. For example, agents know that a successful open house can be the key to unlocking a sale. While COVID-19 sweeps the nation and in-person showings are canceled and discouraged from being held, more real estate agents are switching to virtual open houses.
Virtual Reality allows clients to digitally walk through a house for sale that they intend to buy. Think of it like Street View on Google Maps, but for the inside of a house. Virtual showings aren’t exactly new – they have been around for quite some time and are a popular option for buyers. But, only top-performing agents and firms used to provide Virtual Reality services as part of their marketing strategy before. Today, due to the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders in many parts across the country, using VR is essential for any real estate agent to stay ahead of the curve in 2020. Plus, moving forward, virtual open houses are going to be instrumental in how agents generate real estate leads and sell homes.
Related: How the Coronavirus Is Affecting Real Estate Agents
Benefits of Hosting Virtual Open Houses
Including virtual open house tours in listings offers an incredible opportunity that benefits agents. This will also give a huge boost to your digital marketing plan – which is now more important than ever. Here’s how virtual showings will transform your real estate business in 2020 and beyond:
- More Exposure and Accessibility: Posting virtual open houses online on social media platforms allows for more people to see your listing. Consecutively, this increases your chances of attracting multiple offers which could drive the sale price up.
- Attract Out-of-Town Buyers: In line with the previous point, virtual showings allow you to make the market more accessible to different client groups and even go global. This makes it alluring to out-of-town and international buyers as they can make buying decisions without needing to travel.
- Brand Recognition: Leaders in the real estate industry are always well-known. If you implement virtual home tours to successfully close home sales, your competitors and customers will discover your new functionality within a short period of time.
- More Effective Use of Your Workforce: Using virtual reality can also sufficiently decrease the burden put on your employees. Instead of showing places, communicating and negotiating, they’ll only have to meet the client at the final stage of the buying/selling process. Super convenient!
- Better Viewing of Property Features: Aside from convenience, virtual open houses give buyers a feel of the home’s layout and special features. For example, using drone footage helps in viewing homes with pools, ponds, and lakes. If this doesn’t appeal to a certain buyer, they’ll know without wasting your (and their) time.
- Safer for All Parties: Virtual Reality offers a more comfortable way to show, market and sell homes without having to vacate the home for potential buyers every time there’s a viewing. In turn, this provides everyone (agents, buyers, and sellers) with a sense of privacy and safety.
How to Create a Virtual Open House
With all these benefits, it’s no wonder why top agents have been implementing virtual showings even before the coronavirus pandemic forced others to do the same. But if you’re still new to all of this, don’t worry! Keep reading this guide as we walk you through the process of hosting successful virtual open houses in 2020.
Step #1: Choose Your Platform
With the rapidly changing real estate technology for agents, it may seem daunting to know which platform suits you best for hosting a virtual real estate open house. Truth is, however, it’s not that hard to figure it out. There are mainly two different ways for an agent to host virtual showings. Understanding the pros and cons of each type makes it easier to pick the best one for you. Both require access to either a smartphone camera or a higher-quality video camera. So technically, you can host a virtual open house with just your smartphone which can connect you directly to an online platform. The two main types of virtual open house tours are:
1) Interactive/Live Virtual Open Houses
These can be hosted on social media platforms like Facebook Live and Instagram, or online conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype. The main benefit of these open houses is that the real-time aspect of them allows for a natural engagement with potential buyers. Meaning, it’s the closest alternative to a traditional, in-person open house. Then again, the “live” factor may be overwhelming for real estate agents who are not used to being on camera. This could be a difficult and sudden adjustment that they might not be comfortable with.
2) Static Videos
These are virtual showings that can be filmed ahead of time and posted on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, or placed as stand-alone landing pages on your own website. The best thing about static videos is that they allow for a more controlled environment and a well-thought-out approach for showing the house. So agents who aren’t used to being on camera can navigate the space in a less stressful manner. They also give the opportunity for additional editing or highlighting of specific home amenities or features. Still, while static videos allow for comments, they don’t allow real-time audience engagement. Evidently, this limits an agent’s ability to zero in on specific buyer questions and concerns in the moment.
Step #2: Get a Virtual Tour Software
For some agents, hiring a videographer makes more sense as it saves time, is cost-effective, and gives you a flawless end product. Depending on the broker you work with, you may already have one available. But many professionals charge a rate per square foot which drives up the cost for new real estate agents. As a result, access to a professional with top of the line equipment is often limited to top-performing agents and luxury listings. However, now that virtual open houses are becoming more commonplace in 2020, there are apps and tools that help agents make their own virtual tours. It’s even easy to access the same tools and equipment that the pros use! Here are some of the best virtual tour software for residential real estate agents:
This is a powerful software that you can use to turn your smartphone into a powerful VR camera. This makes it easy for you to create 360-degree VR tours of any real estate property. Scan any space with your smartphone to quickly create a professional-quality floor plan. Using VR and augmented reality solutions, iStaging allows you to even add objects and preview furniture in your space in real-time, just like they were there! Following a few simple steps, residential real estate agents can create interactive virtual open house tour experiences for their clients. You can also request viewers to fill in their contact information before entering the tour. This allows you to generate leads in real estate and protect your spaces from unwanted intrusions.
Related: How to Get More Real Estate Leads in 2020: 26 Different Ways
This tool for real estate agents converts images taken with 360 cameras into virtual open houses. My360 is compatible with any kind of camera, can be accessed from any location in the world, and enables you to develop 3D footage that can be viewed on all VR headsets. By using this virtual reality software, you can capture every angle and corner of the property and embed it into a 360-degree version. Plus, using My360 allows residential real estate agents to make affordable virtual open house tours in a matter of minutes. Once you’re done with your walkthrough tour, you can publish it on your social media or embed the link into your code in order to display the virtual showing on your website.
This is yet another real estate agent tool that enables you to create 360-degree virtual tours in a short period of time. Simply upload panoramic shots taken with a 360 VR camera into the software. Then, EyeSpy360 enables you to create Virtual Reality tours that your clients can watch on their smartphones, tablets, VR headsets, and computers. In addition, residential real estate agents can publish virtual showings online with the click of a button. An interesting feature of this software is that you can share the virtual tour among multiple viewers at the same time. Meaning, you can display a home for sale to multiple interested buyers. Plus, it comes with numerous customization options, built-in live chats, 2D still photography, and more. What’s more, this software is user-friendly and available for free!
Step #3: Marketing & Lead Generation
Of course, real estate agents can’t forget about marketing. You should promote your virtual real estate open house the same way you’d promote an in-person open house. However, your marketing and content campaign should be aimed at promoting your new advantages. For example, the MLS has added the ability for agents to schedule either in-person or virtual open houses. If you select Virtual, you can add a link to an online event, along with a description for the link. This is a great feature, so make sure to leverage it! Whether you’ll be hosting live or simply uploading a pre-recorded video, choose a date and time and let your clients know when the event will happen and how to get connected. Other real estate marketing ideas for agents include sending emails to buyer leads and getting the word out through your social media platforms.
Related: 12 Best Real Estate Marketing Tools for Agents in 2020
Moreover, real estate agents should also be moving to virtual lead qualification as a way to cut down on physical contact and in-person interviews. To do this, you can use software like Mashboard’s AI buyer lead qualification. Using predictive analytics, this tool automatically gathers and conveniently displays all the data you need to qualify real estate leads. It also comes with a lead likelihood algorithm which tells you how likely the lead is to make a purchase. So, you no longer need to ask questions to qualify buyer leads. This will help you eliminate wasting time on unqualified leads. To access your Mashboard, book your demo now!
Step #4: Plan & Prepare in Advance
Creating a great virtual showing takes some prep work. So if you’re shooting virtual open houses yourself, have a plan in place for what angles and viewpoints you want to include. After all, practice makes perfect! A dry run is important to avoid setbacks on the day-of to make you look professional. Here are a few tasks that you should complete ahead of the day you plan on recording your tour:
- Make sure you understand the house layout, especially where potential obstacles may be to avoid accidents and falls. This will also give you an understanding of the unique features of the house that you might want to point out in your video.
- Practicing what you are going to say on camera without the camera. If you’re going to host a live virtual open house, consider having a checklist of talking points with you. It won’t be seen as unprofessional on air.
- Test your tech. If you’re going live, connect and stream to the platform you’re using before the big day. As you do this, make sure someone else is watching on the platform to ensure the sound, lighting, and logistics are in check.
- Test camera height to see how the lighting changes. Plus, test out different camera angles to see which vantage points show your home best. Make sure your virtual tour shows your home on its best day ever.
After the open house tour is complete, open the floor to questions. If you’re streaming live, you can review questions in the feed. Once you’re done, remember to wipe down all surfaces you touched. And, most importantly, follow up with everyone who tuned in, commented, or shared the link. You never know how many real estate leads you can get from a single virtual showing – the entire internet is your front door!
Final Words for Real Estate Agents
Many sellers and buyers are concerned due to the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders in 2020. Some states declared real estate services as essential services and in-person showings are allowed to continue. This includes the New York real estate market, the Washington State real estate market, and the California real estate market. However, for real estate agents in other markets, now is a good time to leverage the available real estate technology. Let your clients know that you’ll continue to service them and can market their home through virtual open houses. Not only would this allow you to continue conducting business and closing home sales, but it’ll also allow you to woo your real estate clients and get referrals as well.
For more updates on COVID-19 and how it’s affecting everyone in the real estate industry, sign up with Mashvisor.