Disruption – perhaps the most overused noun of the past decade. A word that strikes fear in some and excites others. And while ‘disruption’ looks different in each industry, the common trend in all industries is that it’s accelerating. Rapidly. Where the telephone took 50 years to reach 50 million users, Pokémon Go took just 19 days.
And today? It’s Real Estate Virtual Tours that are exponentially on the rise and unfortunately, the agents not gearing up to catch that wave are likely to be left behind in its wake.
The spark that has set off the ‘Pokémon Go’ reaction in the world of real estate virtual tours? You guessed it. The c-word. COVID.
COVID-19 has been the spark that virtual tours needed to go from ‘a nice option’ to ‘a non-negotiable’. With search traffic for real estate virtual tours and related terms spiking since March this year. Zillow, a US-based Real Estate buying service with a market value of over $US25 billion saw their 3D scan numbers go up over 500% between March and April this year. Their CEO Richard Barton said, “you’re seeing years of technology progress get accelerated down into months.”
So, with the virtual tour wave starting to break in the US and UK markets, what’s holding us back here in Australia?
The critical thing to watch with any technology adoption is the ‘tipping point’. It’s where technology capabilities and customer demand collide to create a new expectation in the market. It’s at the tipping point that innovative businesses get above average growth, simply because their offering aligns with that new expectation. It’s why large successful businesses spend so much energy on innovation.
The tipping point for real estate virtual tours is literally just around the corner but for agents to get the most value out of it, they need to reshape what they think it is.
WHERE REAL ESTATE AGENTS ARE GETTING VIRTUAL TOURS WRONG…
Many agents think of virtual tours as an advanced marketing tool, an extension to photography. There are a few problems with this, not least of which is that it’s hard to justify extra vendor paid advertising dollars when portal advertising and other marketing costs are already so hefty.
WHEN REALLY, THEY COULD BE USING THEM TO GET THINGS VERY, VERY RIGHT…
What if virtual tours were actually a sales function and not a marketing one?
There will always be a place for glossy, hero images for attracting audiences to a listing but is a highly retouched photo of the second washroom really what buyers are looking? (Hint: it’s not.)
Once a buyer has engaged with a listing, they then start the process of assessing the suitability of that property for their personal needs. Unfortunately, the only practical way of actually doing this for most listings in Australia is to turn up to a 30-minute window in person on a Saturday morning.
Agents tell themselves that the more groups through on the weekend the better. Simultaneously they curse the time wasters and tyre kickers who come through and take their time and attention away from the serious buyers. The real estate echo chamber tells them that the aim of the game is to get face to face on a Saturday morning and then muscling the potential buyers into offers. However, the experience of most people that turn up on a Saturday is that they never hear from the agent until their monthly newsletter comes out a few weeks later. Or, if the agent does take the time to call, most attendees screen the call anyway, adding it to their ‘do not answer’ list, and all that agent has done is waste their own time.
So, it’s time agents shift their preconceived thinking and instead, use virtual tours to their advantage. Real Estate Virtual Tours are not about marketing. They’re not photography on steroids. Virtual Tours allow great agents to run their open home 24/7 to anyone in the world. It’s the open home on steroids. It opens a listing up to overseas and interstate buyers, busy families, fly-in-fly-out or shift workers, and a whole lot of other influencers in the buying process. It means that the groups that show up in person on Saturday morning are qualified buyers, having spent many minutes on the virtual tour prior to turning up.
What’s more, with the right technology, it means that agents are getting qualified leads any time of the day or night and not having to wait for Saturday morning.
SURF’S UP HERE IN AUSTRALIA
How long do you think consumers are going to continue to be ok with just glossy still images when they start getting used to virtual open homes? When was the last time you walked the streets of a city to find a cab? Consumer expectations are changing and they’re changing quick.
Real Estate Virtual Tours aren’t just a fancy additional extra, they’re the way that real estate will be transacted in the future. Agents who adopt it now, will quietly yet quickly outperform while the competition falls far behind.