How To Host A Virtual Open Home
It’s a crazy time, and we’ve never before dealt with the global lockdown restrictions that COVID-19 has caused. For many businesses, it is forcing an important conversation about digital services and communication. For real estate agents, it means totally rethinking the way they operate.
The real estate industry is both one of the most traditional, with time-tested sales tactics and methods, and one of the most technologically advanced, with so many great tech tools being quickly adopted by forward focussed businesses.
One of those traditional elements that hasn’t changed is the open home. Many a tech platform has emerged to try and take the real estate transaction online, but they’ve never overcome the problem at its core: you just can’t beat going in and seeing the home in real life. Until now, that is!
Tips to hosting a virtual open home with solid results
With COVID-19, going virtual is the only option. So how do you quickly shift the whole way your business operates? Let’s discuss some points to find out.
In recent years, it feels like real estate agents are being pitched a jazzy new tech platform every 5 minutes. And some have crazy price tags!
Before you sign up for any long-term contracts, it’s important to remember that this is only temporary, and the minute the lockdown is over, buyers are still going to want to see a home in person. That’s why we’re recommending fast, easy and low-cost options. It’s an uncertain time, and not the time to be locking yourself into a long-term business arrangement you might not need in a few months.
Host a live tour
Property listings have had beautiful photos, videos, interactive 3D tours and more for a long time, but nothing compares to being able to walk through a home at your own pace and ask questions of an agent while you’re doing it. Photos and videos only show so much, but on a live tour, a buyer can ask the agent to stop, zoom in on an area, go back to a room they wanted to see in more detail, and get a much better sense of size, space and lifestyle when they can see someone walking through the home.
Keep it Simple
Taking your opens online quickly, and making it easy for prospective buyers will be the key to success in keeping your agency mobile and maintaining momentum with vendors. Our best tip is to have as few steps as possible both for your team, and for your buyers.
That’s why we love Zoom – it’s a simple, free, video conference tool that doesn’t require your users to go through a complex signup process to use. Simply share a link, and a time you’ll be online, have the app on your phone, and go live!
Realestate.com.au has also released a virtual inspection tool. However, this again is pre-recorded. We love a live Zoom tour as it means people can ask you questions, you can go back to rooms they want to see again, and you can take advantage of the sales psychology behind an open home: having prospects sign up, talk to you in person, commit to a specific time to see the home, and build rapport.
You might also consider doing Facebook Live events, however we still think Zoom is the best option to ensure you are capturing who is interested in attending your virtual open and establishing a relationship with them.
You can decide if you want to host these opens as 1:1 appointments with each interested buyer, or have multiple people at once – which is a great way to drive urgency and show buyers there are others interested in the property and they should act fast!
Have a good mix of high and low tech
Of course, a video call isn’t going to be as well lit and high production as your photos and pre-recorded professional videos, so make sure you’ve got a mix of the media. Every different way to represent the home – photos, interactive floor plans, pre-recorded videos and a live open home tour each add another piece of the puzzle that helps gives buyers a better sense of the home. You can also encourage them to go for a walk or drive by to see the exterior in real life.
You don’t need a full production crew to do a live walk-through, especially if you’ve already had a video made and professional photography done. All you need is the camera on your phone, and to download the zoom app. You don’t even need a second person to film you – go selfie mode for a truly authentic experience!
If you do want to step up your video walk-through, some simple pieces of video kit that will enhance your tours are:
A gimbal is a special stabiliser that keeps your camera smooth as you walk around. They are relatively cheap but really enhance the professionalism of your video. You can get a stabilizer for your mobile phone like this one from JB Hi-Fi.
Ring lights are great to light you up and increase the picture quality – especially as you move through parts of the house that aren’t so well lit. This one for $14.95 clips onto your phone.
This will help get a bit of distance so you can have more of the house in the background during your walk through. This $20 selfie stick is a great option and can also be set down as a tripod if you want to stop at the end and do a Q&A.
When it comes to video equipment, there are endless extra accessories. If you have a second person filming, you can get gimbals for DSLR cameras, on camera LED lighting panels and many more. However, we think the simplicity of simply loading up the Zoom app on your phone and doing a live, interactive tour can’t be beaten!
Reassure your vendors
Naturally, vendors are going to be pretty worried about whether their house will sell without people being able to see it. The sales process might take longer, but whenever there is a change in the economy, there are always buyers keeping their eyes peeled for a deal! It’s important to reassure your current and prospective vendors that you’ve got the tools to host virtual opens. You can even run a live auction using tools like Zoom!
Promote widely with your digital channels
Without people getting out and about and seeing signboards in the neighbourhood, promoting your listings online is more important than ever. With uncertainty and distress many potential buyers might not realise there are opportunities in the market, and they won’t necessarily be actively looking on real estate portals like Domain and realestate.com.au. While the portals here in Australia have been tight lipped on their current search volumes, US sources are reporting real estate searches are down. And if the amount of times I’ve seen Domain’s ads in the last few days is anything to go by, the portals here are probably following a similar trend.
So now is the time you need to go out to your email database and social followers and let them know you have listings, are hosting opens, and there are great buying opportunities to be found.
Capture those leads
We can’t stress this enough – get your prospects to register in advance for your open homes! Ask them to email you or fill out a simple form before you send a zoom link, so you can follow up afterwards. That’s the biggest reason we recommend Zoom over simply posting videos – you’re starting to build that relationship with your buyers.
Look at markets that are opening up
It might seem like doom and gloom in Australia as our lockdown is only just beginning, but there are some big lessons we can learn from the e-commerce industry. Focus on where buyers are and who is active – and think offshore.
China is back open for business, having mostly recovered from COVID-19 due to the Government’s ability to lock down the country in a way most others can’t. Chinese buyers have a long history of purchasing Australian property without having to see it, and are one of the top segments for off the plan property – perfect contenders to engage with your virtual opens!
While there are some restrictions on offshore buyers and what they can purchase, if we were the betting types we’d be putting money on some serious conversations going on behind the scenes at the Foreign Investment Review Board about whether relaxing restrictions on offshore buyers could help the Australian economy get through COVID-19. Regardless, there are plenty of Chinese buyers here in Australia, and offshore buyers can purchase new homes (including house and land).
The key to marketing to Chinese property buyers is to get onto the tech platforms used in China. Most western platforms and communication tools are blocked in China so you’ll need to innovate. WeChat is the #1 Chinese social media platform, that allows you to livestream, post property listings, add videos and share photos. If you want to reach the Chinese market, WeChat is the first step.