VIRTUAL REAL ESTATE TOURS RAMP UP AS COVID-19 SUSPENDS OPEN HOUSES..

Article in Part By Rachel Burris...!

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Open houses have long been an advantageous tool for generating buyer interest, but now that the doors to listings have been closed to large groups, agents are turning to technology. Active Online Open Houses are gaining a lot of traction now that COVID-19 has limited real estate professionals’ ability to market and show properties. If you’re a real estate agent who hasn’t started to incorporate technology into your business model, now’s the time to start learning how.

When news of COVID-19 began circulating around the U.S., agents journeyed to listings, armed with bottles of hand sanitizer and containers of disinfectant. Many opened cabinets and doors for customers, while others instructed buyers to put on gloves and booties upon entering their listings. When social distancing became a greater necessity, many sellers, agents and brokerages began canceling open houses and offering limited showings by appointment. Although business may not be proceeding as usual, agents have been keeping busy, trying to find new methods for marketing and showing their listings. A virtual tour is as close as you can come to an in-person showing. Real estate agents across the country are implementing this as an alternative to physical showings. Many home buyers are staying home as a result of the pandemic but are still shopping for homes by utilizing virtual tours.

Although essential to any listing, photographs of properties have their limitations. They’re intended to entice buyers to view properties in person, but they can’t be expected to give consumers a clear grasp of the space as a whole. "You have to use your imagination to link the images together to understand the flow of the space. A virtual tour allows the home buyer to explore each room completely with 360° movement,” says Jerry Clum. “You can see each room from every angle and perspective. You can look down to see the flooring and up to see the ceiling. You can move through the space however you want. You are able to walk up and down the stairs and hallways, giving you a feel for the flow of a home.” Rosamaria Acuna with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services says; "Virtual tours are a great way to motivate a buyer to preview the property in person. The presentation in person is what always sold the property for me,” she says. “Now, we must adapt quickly to this new norm and present the properties, when safe to enter, with authentic photography and video.”

While many agents are starting to use the advanced 3D virtual tour technology, others don’t have the means to incorporate it, given the restrictive measures local governments have taken to protect their citizens. Still, agents are finding ways around the obstacles they face. Instead of relying on advanced proptech to conduct virtual tours, real estate professionals are now using the everyday technology that’s already at their disposal. Use a cell phone, the technology isn’t complicated, and the cost is free to already have a smartphone video feature. While walking through the property, discuss many of the same issues and features as you would when doing a showing together. 

If you haven’t conducted a virtual tour in the past, you may be a bit nervous to try it out. But you don’t need to be a videographer to create something that’s useful for your potential customers. Of course, you may need a few takes or practice runs to get it right, but we’ve asked agents who’ve already gotten the knack of it to share their insights into how to create a strong virtual tour. Remember, virtual tours are all about overcoming the limitations of still photography and highlighting the flow of your properties. So, before you create your virtual tour, make sure you are familiar with the layout of the home and consider what information about the home buyers are unable to see from your listing photos. “Point out items that you can’t show in pictures,” says Natalie Alchadeff with HB Group. “The virtual tours should focus on layout, so the buyer has a feeling of what is it like to walk through a house.” Prior to shooting, you should also prepare the property. Make sure that its clean, staged and all of the lights are on. Plan the route your tour will take. “Have doors open before you start the video,” advises Nancy Brook, of Billings Best Real Estate. By opening doors ahead of time, you can eliminate those awkward moments of fumbling with doorknobs and create a more seamless video of the properties. To enhance the quality of your tour, be sure to clean the lens of your camera and turn your phone to airplane mode. You don’t want calls or messages interrupting your footage.  Once you begin to film, it’s crucial that you act professional and create context for potential buyers. “Start the video with you talking to the camera,” says Brook. “Make sure to show the outside of the house and the neighborhood at the start. Then, go inside and take your time. Open doors to closets, pantries, utility rooms. Take videos from different angles in the living room, kitchen and family room.” As you present rooms from different angles, slowly move the camera up and down to show off the homes’ fixtures, floors and finishes. Make sure you describe everything the camera sees and highlight specific features that may be of interest to buyers. There’s certainly a learning curve involved in creating virtual tours. The more practice you have, the better you get. However, there’s no need to fret over the quality of your first few virtual tours.

Many real estate professionals believe that virtual tours coupled with COVID-19 addendums will lead to more buyers buying virtually. Others view these virtual tours as a stopgap mechanism that’s unlikely to actually increase the number of homes purchased during these tough times. Although difficult to predict, Frigan says, “I do suspect that on the rental side you may see sight unseen deals. Leases are happening virtually. And as of now, movers are considered essential staff, so as long as the building does not prohibit moving, the rentals are probably going to start happening. I see much less interest in the sale market because it’s a much bigger decision to buy something sight unseen.” Any method you can use to market and show your listings virtually will get potential customers’ attention. Your virtual tours may not lead to sight unseen purchases, but they will motivate buyers to come view your properties once the nation is able to return to business as usual. 

 

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