July 21, 2020

With agents in some areas no longer able to hold in-person open houses, video has taken on a new and essential role in real estate.  Note that the virtual open house and virtual tours will be indispensable in the weeks (months?) to come.  Even though this is a necessity now, it is a shift that will likely continue to be important even after COVID-19 restrictions have come and gone, so getting into the game now will both keep you current and active and and prepare you for potential future trends.

To begin, it is worth checking out this article from Inman.  I will expand on some of the ideas presented there, as well as add some new ones.  We will focus on the following:

-Knowing the limitations of a virtual tour/open house, and playing to what you can do well.

-Anticipating what will be missing and proactively working to bridge any gaps.

-Highlighting the unique and best features of the home and property.

Let’s address each of these issues.

-Knowing the limitations of a virtual tour/open house, and playing to what you can do well.

In the above-referenced article from Inman, the author likens the virtual tour to “sending your client an e-book instead of taking them to the bookstore: we all love the convenience of Audible, but we inevitably miss the smell of the books, the texture of the pages, and the possibility of discovering something unexpectedly great.”  This is a great point.  Simply, there is no way to fully re-create walking into a home, breathing the air, and feeling the home.  But, you can still give a client a comprehensive tour and do your best to show what life is like.  

Whoever is operating the camera and leading the tour should remember that the home should be the star of the show.  Narration is fine, but keep it informative and relevant.  So, think about turning on ceiling fans, turning on the fireplace, and capturing shots that highlight the best views and the best natural lighting.  Also, there is no need to rush.  Walk through the home slowly and deliberately.  When entering a room through a doorway, make your way to the far corner of the room, then slowly turn around to show the view towards the door.  This will give the viewer the best experience in terms of feeling the size of the room.

Also, think of your narration of each room as a short introduction.  Go over the basics, just as you would in person, and leave plenty of time for questions.  Be ready to open kitchen and bathroom cabinets and the like.

-Anticipating what will be missing and proactively working to bridge any gaps.

As mentioned in the article, buyers like to know what the neighborhood and surrounding homes are like.  They mention having the client visit via Google Earth, which is great, but you can make this more personal by beginning your tour as you enter the neighborhood.  Drive slowly, pan from side to side, and allow the client to take in the experience of arriving at their potential home.  Alternatively, you could take a video of the drive in and send it along.  

Another reality is that your tour will take place at a specific time of day.  In preparation, and if you have time, you can visit the property at different times of day to learn when you will have the best and most unique light.  However, this might not be possible, as part of the deal is that the open house will have to be at a time that is convenient.  Consider, when possible, taking a series of short videos at different times of the day that you can send to interested buyers.  For instance, what kind of sun/shade will there be in the outside areas?  How will the light come into the house at different times of day?  These things are important to many buyers.

Moving on, while video can capture many aspects of a space, there are certain things that just have to be experienced in person.  Think of walking down the street in any neighborhood:  the sights and sounds can be captured, but not the smell and the overall feeling.  This is where your descriptive language is necessary.  Give all the details that you can.  Here, as earlier, you will need to leave time and space for questions, and answer to the best of your ability.

-Highlighting the unique and best features of the home and property.

As potential buyers start to focus in on the properties that interest them, it will often come down to one or two unique features of a home that will put it over the top.  Anticipate this reality, and get to know the home as well as you can.  Most homes have something that will appeal to a buyer, something that they won’t find anywhere else in the area.  This is your hook:  if you can find this feature, you can likely find someone who will bite.  Know your clients, know the property, and make the match.  

Think of these virtual open houses as a way to qualify your clients for in-person showings.  Give them all the information you can and answer all of their questions to the best of your ability, but know that it won’t be perfect.  Your goal should really be to get clients to the point where they are interested enough to visit the property when the situation allows, or potentially even make the purchase without actually entering the property.  Strange times, indeed. 

Best of luck as you try the virtual open house.  I was lucky enough to be invited to a couple of these by a partner back in April, and was impressed by the quality of the experience and the thoughtfulness of those involved.  It takes a little practice, and it won’t be perfect, but I found the experiences to be full of information and very engaging.  

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