The housing market has entered an unprecedented global pandemic era. But for many homebuilders, business is surprisingly “as usual” right now. In fact, business is surpassing pre-COVID numbers for many builders and it’s been hard to keep up.
But even though homebuilding interest isn’t slow, things have changed for the industry.
With health concerns, many homebuyers are hesitant to see display homes in-person and some governments still have restrictions in place for homebuilders to hold in-person tours.
But not all hope is lost.
Virtual tours aren’t new by any means, but they have taken off this year as a recommended and viable way to safely showcase display homes to potential buyers.
What is a virtual open house?
There are two kinds of virtual open houses.
The first is almost identical to an in-person one and is the least complicated. It’s a real-time tour of the display home that happens at a scheduled time for interested buyers. Someone from your company does a walk-through with a smartphone, just as they would during a traditional open house, giving viewers a good idea of the layout and unique characteristics.
The major difference here is that the tour is done online through a streaming service such as Zoom and Google Meet, or live video on Facebook and Instagram. This approach offers real-time audience engagement, making it the most similar to a traditional open house. Questions that come up in the comments section can be answered in real-time by the tour guide, or another rep keeping their eye on messages. Once the live stream is over it can be posted online for more potential buyers to see.
The second style of virtual open house is a pre-recorded video walk-through. This approach is similar to the live version but allows for video editing to highlight home amenities and enhance the lighting. This is a good approach for homebuilders who aren’t comfortable on camera, giving them more control over their presentation. The downfall is the lack of real-time engagement and buyer questions and concerns can’t be addressed right away.
Are virtual open houses enough for buyers to purchase sight unseen?
It’s unclear if virtual open houses will skyrocket sight unseen purchases of new homes, but the current coronavirus climate has changed some buyers’ minds. A recent survey found 36% of Americans would be more likely to buy a home online without seeing it in person during the pandemic, and one in three people would rather take a virtual tour of a home than see it in person because of health concerns, even after the outbreak ceases.
The possibility of virtual tours surpassing in-person is unlikely since most people still want the physical and reassuring experience of seeing a home, but it’s reasonable to assume they will continue to be an effective mechanism for motivating buyers to view your display homes when it’s safe to do so.
Are private virtual tours any different?
Private virtual tours can be set up just like live virtual open houses. In this case, it’s just someone from your company touring your display home with the interested buyers watching on video. Private tours can be more effective than open houses because the tour is more personalized to the buyers and they receive your full attention. They have more freedom to ask a lot of questions and ask to see specific areas and features of the home, unlike an open house where they have little control over what they see.
Even if a buyer doesn’t purchase from the virtual tour alone, it can help them narrow down their choices as to which homes they want to view in person when they are comfortable doing so. They may also feel more comfortable with a private tour because they can discuss more personal matters like pricing, upgrades, and customization options.
Tips to host successful virtual display home tours
If you’re thinking about hosting virtual open houses or private tours, whether live or pre-recorded, here are some suggestions to make them engaging and valuable to potential buyers:
1. Be familiar with the home layout
Before you take potential buyers on a tour, make sure you or the person giving the tour is very familiar with the layout of the home. The goal is to highlight the flow of the home, something buyers can’t visualize well through photos.
2. Point out specific areas and details not in photos
One of the reasons buyers want a virtual tour is to see the home as a whole and piece together the photos they’ve seen into a real-life visual. Look at the photos you have online of your display home, if you have them, and make a note of specific areas and angles of the home you need to show to help buyers fully understand its layout.
3. Prepare the property
Make sure the property inside and out is sparkling clean, all lights are on, windows are open to bring in natural lighting, furniture staging is set, so on. Also, make sure all doors are open so you can seamlessly walk through the rooms and show closet and pantry spaces without the noise of doorknobs.
4. Make sure equipment is ready
Whether you’re using a smartphone for a live tour or a more expensive set up for a recorded walk-through, make sure the lens is clean and the battery is full. If you’re using a smartphone put it on airplane mode so notifications and incoming calls don’t disrupt the tour.
5. Create context for buyers
When you start the tour talk to the camera first and give the buyers a quick rundown of what will happen during the tour. Show off the surrounding neighborhood first if the display home is located in the same area as a new build would be, and don’t forget to show the outside of the property. Curb appeal is as important as the inside.
6. Take your time
Don’t rush the tour. Take your time walking around and showing the same space from different angles. Get close-ups of features like faucets, backsplashes, and other intricate details. Buyers want to see everything from fixtures and flooring to wall colors and finishes.
7. Be descriptive
Virtual tours are an exception to the “show don’t tell” rule. Describe everything you’re showing and leave no details to chance. What kind of finishes are in the bathroom? What material are the kitchen countertops made of? How many square feet is the master bedroom? Are the walls painted with scrubbable paint? What brand and models are the appliances? Does the home have any energy-efficient features? The more details the better.
8. Do a run-through
Live or recorded, it’s a good idea to do a practice tour. Plan out the route to take, specific features to highlight that aren’t in photos, and what important details should be noted. The most important thing here is not to stress over it being perfect. People are watching to see a live walk-through, not a professional drone video with special effects.
If you’re doing a recorded tour you might want to plan out extra details, like making a list of specific video shots you want to take, and writing a script for the voice over to explain what buyers are seeing during the video and answer commonly asked questions.
Promoting virtual display home tours is much easier today with the help of social media and an increase in buyer interest. Here are two effective ways to do it:
Before you hold a live virtual tour, promote it on social media. Share pictures of the display home with a simple post of the date and time you’ll be holding a live video tour. If you’re hosting through Zoom, Google Meet, or another service that requires a link to join, include a link for buyers to sign up for the tour. You’ll know approximately how many will be joining you and build your email list in the process.
Send an email to your customer list letting them know about the virtual tour first. Include a photo of the home and a link to view more photos if you have them, so people can decide if they’re interested to see more. Provide details about when the tour will take place and instructions on how to join in.
The state of your business doesn’t have to feel uncertain during these unsettling times. With AvidCX you’ll always know where you stand with your customers and have the data insights to stay ahead of the curve.