Flexibility quite often was an issue over the years within the real estate industry. Whether it was buyer representation or technological advancements, evolution occurred at a painstakingly slow pace. As someone who witnessed the latter, it was obvious how subpar response to consumer need and demand had taken place. I hope we’ve learned our lesson, but even so I have my skepticism.
Nevertheless, technology has come a long way: More recently, real estate tech has closed the gap, providing homebuyers and sellers more options for both searching and showcasing properties. We’ve experienced a deviation in how consumers are approaching digital content as a whole. Smart devices, cord-cutting, social media and videography have provided opportunities for real estate companies to connect with consumers earlier in the process. There’s more flexibility for REALTORS® as they brace, and I do emphasize brace, for 2021. Virtual home tours (or virtual open houses) and virtual staging are two advances I wish our industry had rolled out a few years ago. The industry, as a whole, wasn’t as proactive as it should have been. I argue, it took a pandemic to force the change.
Virtual home tours are a fantastic way for connecting buyers and sellers in a post-COVID world. With PAR guidelines as they presently exist, it’s extremely difficult to safely conduct and host an open house. More than one agent is required, almost certainly, not to mention the enforcement of PAR COVID forms/questionnaire prior to each and every party entering the premises. Then there’s social distancing, limiting the number of people who enter at one time, disinfecting the home, etc. New information has also been released from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), which suggests there might be an airborne component to transmission beyond a six foot distance. Needless to say, there are obvious challenges when hosting an open house right now.
The majority of homes listed in today’s market, like other products available online, should employ tours for prospective buyers. These home tours need to be dynamic, where users can engage with the property and gain a sense of what the space and rooms feel like. They should get a sense of the floors, ceilings, depth, closet space, foundation, among other things. After viewing the tour, they should almost presume they were physically onsite.
There’s a bright side to these obstacles though. With the onslaught of mobile technology and the strategic advantage of professional photography, virtual open houses are a superb way to capture buyers’ attention and expose sellers’ homes in an increasingly virtual real estate environment. Furthermore, being proactive in this new age of buying and selling is a smart move! Honestly, it’s good practice to have virtual home tours produced ready to go for buyers who either might not be able to access a home or might not want to access a home (because of distance or certain precautions being taken).
A second strategy the real estate industry is deploying these days is virtual staging sessions as well as virtual staging tech. These are terrific ways to connect with potential sellers. Homeowners receive guidance on how their homes can make an astounding first impression via virtual sessions, effectively staging them in this seller’s market. Staging strategies are shared through technology (Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Google Duo, etc.), from the property’s exterior (discussing landscaping and curb appeal) to highlighting key spaces within the interior, better equipping sellers for the road ahead. Tips presented by the agent can provide the homeowner with a leg up on the competition. Staging tech software and apps are also on the rise in 2020. Companies like Compass are beginning to use it, allowing consumers to see something other than vacant rooms as they search. By selecting a few key rooms, now agents, through the use of virtual staging software, have the ability to otherwise showcase those empty, boring rooms, creating a totally different experience for buyers.
Though virtual components of real estate are extremely auspicious now, nothing can replace the sensory experience of a buyer – nothing. The texture of surfaces or the smells of the home or the make-up of the neighborhood cannot be reproduced on video. Ultimately, while we seek to utilize this technology in our market, physically bringing buyers into a property is the ideal – at the very least before an offer is submitted to the selling Brokerage.