To Virtual View or not to View?

Virtual Viewing in 2020

As nearly all the Estate and Letting Industry sector are sitting at and working from home, the chance to embrace technology in order to carry on as normal has increased. I am sure that I’m not the only one seeing many more videos in our email inboxes and social media timelines, from virtual tours of property for sale to a host of industry experts getting together for a live video chat.

Video has been part of estate agency for many years though, I first introduced property videos and property audio tours some 8 or 9 years ago with ‘Property on Video‘ that were working at the time with The Guild and LSL chain giving agencies the chance to showcase property by video. Rightmove did have a dedicated URL field to place video tours on though the usage and take up was very little, very seldom would you see a property listing with a chance to view it by video too.

All of a sudden, and speaking first hand being the owner of many social media pages and groups, there has been an explosion of companies advertising videos and video technology from capturing footage by drones to step by step advice on software for filming property via your mobile. Getting the industry online and visual seems to be a new trend and of course a big thumbs up to this that the industry is adapting itself quickly in light of COVID-19.

Some interesting information and stats shared with us include:

Spec (the largest provider of virtual property tours in London) has delivered 52,673 virtual property viewings since launching in June 2019 (saving over 400,000 km from being driven, assuming all house hunters live in LDN).

221,181 minutes has been spent in Spec 360 Virtual Tours (or the equivalent of watching 2,457 football matches).

Sessions and minutes since 24th Jan (when government COVID guidance was released):

  • 21,167 – virtual property viewing
  • 74,4528 – minutes spent in Spec 360 Virtual Tours

House hunters from 135 countries and over 3,000 cities around the world have viewed property VIRTUALLY in London.

The average virtual tour session lasts for 8 mins 45 sec.

The top 10 most virtually viewed properties in 2020 (so far) are all “for sale” (rather than rental).

 

With all this video footage floating around I wanted to take a look at how it is helping estate and letting agents and importantly how easy it is to embrace and what the results have been like. Following a recent call out for feedback, I am pleased to share the following comments from the industry:

Patrick Connolly, Lettings Director (MARLA) – James Sanderson Estate Agents:

How easy has it been to adopt virtual viewings in your set up?

Since being on lockdown most success has come via property tour videos sent to us by landlords and current tenants. It doesn’t need to be a difficult process and most of our landlords and tenants are very glad to be able to do something like making a video for us. At the moment where lockdown is separating us physically, it’s actually bringing us together in as many ways. 

 

How popular have they been and have you managed to sell / gain offers / let / lease thanks to a virtual viewing?

We have had success with lettings deals being agreed (since we were all told to stay at home), thanks to virtual viewings and our online information. And a number of offers are still pending. 

 

What is your opinion of virtual viewings both for now in helping the industry during lock down and also after when things get back to normal?

 For lettings, there is real value in having videos available. The fast nature of the industry in London doesn’t give much time to find your new home as a tenant, nor does it give much time as an agent. We often see friends recording a video of a property viewing in cases where not all the housemates can make the viewing in person and decisions are made happily from these candid videos. It makes perfect sense to deliver the marketing of our properties in the same way – it’s the world we find ourselves in and how more and more people are choosing to engage with each other and communicate.

Let’s face it, right now most of our interactions are through our screens as we make contact with loved ones and friends during lockdown. A video with a human touch coming from someone who lives in the property can highlight aspects and benefits which as letting agents, we may overlook or take for granted having not lived there. 

 As letting agents, we’re here to help people find new homes; sometimes this can be lost if it focuses solely on making money. Trust is something we all need as part of the process, otherwise it doesn’t work, and without it the joyful experience of finding a new home is missed. If the video tour of the property is coming from the person that lives or has lived there, that’s a pretty good recommendation that can be trusted. As agents, we can then fill in all the gaps that tenants will ask with our expert knowledge.

 Video certainly has a place in the market and we need to take advantage of this technology. As mentioned, it’s important to get the content and feeling right with the videos. To have a photo reel style video that fades in and out of still photos is soulless and rather boring. Our opinion is that videos are much more helpful than a reel of static images. Adding a real person and some character to virtual viewings is always going to appeal, be more dynamic and I think have a better success rate. When we’re back in our offices and meeting with the public and our clients once again, doing what we do best, we’re going to continue to take advantage of video viewings. Whether it’s the landlord, current tenant or one of our team members being the “personality” on the video you will certainly be seeing more featured on our website. And I imagine with other agents within the industry too.

 

James Ackrill, Chairman at Centrick:

Residential property expert, Centrick, has unlocked the key to success after launching virtual viewings in the wake of Covid-19. Just three weeks after offering renters and buyers the chance to see properties via their screen, the estate agent has already secured 42 new tenancies through the service.

As the UK headed into lockdown, Centrick mobilised its team to roll-out a brand-new ‘virtual viewings’ service, just in time for stricter social distancing and self-isolation measures. Covering over 140 properties in its portfolio – including both those to rent and to buy – initial success has seen Centrick convert 100% of virtual viewings. From those needing to upsize to care for vulnerable family members, to front-line key workers moving out to protect those at risk in their households; Centrick wanted to keep the market moving for landlords, tenants, buyers and sellers.

James Ackrill comments:

“The team is always looking at ways to innovate and improve customer service, so we already had virtual tours for our larger high end properties, but Covid-19 gave us the push that we needed to extend the service and make personal virtual viewings across our portfolio… fast. We anticipated lockdown a few weeks prior and knew that, whilst thrown into uncertainty, there would likely still be demand for house moves. Especially those of key workers whose circumstances meant that they needed to be closer to work or away from families, to keep vulnerable members safe.”

 

Giles Barrett, Sales Director at Rentify:

How easy has it been to adopt virtual viewings in your set up?

It has been remarkably straightforward to introduce virtual viewings across our entire portfolio. As a digitally enhanced lettings agency we conduct the vast majority of the lettings process online anyway, so introducing this additional offering was something that came reasonably naturally to us, allowing us to get the system up and running within a few days.

How popular have they been and have you managed to sell / gain offers / let / lease thanks to a virtual viewing?

We’ve been delighted by the response from both landlords and tenants and have already agreed several lettings using this method. We have found that virtual viewings tend to be most successful when dealing with smaller properties – typically studios and one-bedroom apartments, where the tenant may be a young couple or young professional, looking for a place to live for say a year or two and who are therefore more comfortable agreeing to something without seeing it in the flesh. Tenants looking for larger properties or big family houses will generally still want to see the property before agreeing anything,

“We find that the simpler the video is the better received it will be – we share most of them with our clients via WhatsApp and our agents are able to discuss the video with the client over the phone – giving them more detailed insights where necessary. Following the success of the viewings, we have now expanded our virtual capabilities to include virtual valuations for landlords, which also seems to be gaining traction.

What is your opinion of virtual viewings both for now in helping the industry during lock down and also after when things get back to normal?

Whilst virtual viewings were initially introduced as an interim measure in response to the lockdown and as a means of keeping the market moving, we have been pleasantly surprised by the uptake and can certainly see how they could play a part in our industry longer term.

“Virtual viewings remove a layer of distraction associated with face-to-face viewings where tenants can sometimes feel under pressure. Watching a 2-minute video from the comfort of your own home, with the ability to stop, rewind, zoom and focus – all in your own time and at your own leisure – is certainly a welcome way of viewing a property. That said, we mustn’t underestimate the value of face-to-face encounters but these newfound methods have certainly demonstrated a wealth of opportunities that we look forward to incorporating into ’normal’ life once the lockdown lifts.

 

* “Data provided by Spec, the largest specialist provider of virtual property tours in London; www.Spec.co “

 

Avatar

Christopher Walkey

Founder of Estate Agent Networking and an internationally invited speaker on how to build online target audiences using Twitter and LinkedIn. Writes about UK property prices, housing and affordable homes.

You May Also Enjoy