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Steal a march by choosing ‘virtual first’

01 July 2021 32971 Views
Steal a march by choosing ‘virtual first’

It doesn’t seem that long ago that 2D floorplans were considered cutting edge – but it’s safe to say they’re now an integral part of any property marketing campaign. Advancements in technology can often be slow to take off, particularly in an industry like estate agency where things have been done a certain way for decades and where personal relationships are quite rightly paramount. But the pandemic forced agents to rapidly re-evaluate the way they operate and adopt digital tools that allowed to them continue to sell and let homes even when the office doors were locked and bolted. This has presented a unique opportunity for us at FocalAgent to prove to agents how a virtual first approach can have a positive impact on their business, while keeping personal relationships at the core.

Properties listed with a guided virtual tour benefit from almost a 20% higher conversion rate than those listed without one – and sell for an average of 5.6% more. FocalAgent recently signed a deal with Matterport, the market leaders in 360 viewing technology, to bring best-in-class 360° virtual tours to our partner agents, allowing buyers to explore listings as if they were walking through each room in a completely immersive experience. Research from Matterport shows that three quarters of agents say the tool helped them grow market share by winning more listings, as well as providing customers with a superior online viewing experience with the ability to measure furniture and walls and view the property from multiple angles.

Virtual viewings make it easier for a higher number of people to view a property, which in turn increases the likelihood of a sale or let. There are also considerable time savings for the agent, who is able to filter out all but the most serious parties without leaving their desk. This represents a significant step forward for the customer and the agent, quite simply, making it easier to narrow down a list of properties, reduce time-consuming in-person viewings and focus on what agents do best – selling and letting homes.

But how permanent are these changes? As our cities wait with bated breath and crossed fingers to see whether the workforce will once again pack out the morning commuter trains and return to the office, it remains unclear whether estate agency has crossed permanently into the digital hinterlands. Will sellers once again willingly open up their homes to complete strangers – and will buyers be keen to bump into each other on the stairs during a busy weekend open house?

Right now, 360° content penetration on listings portals is only approximately 5% on sales listings and even lower on lettings, according to the research firm TwentyCi. So, agents generally remain slow on the uptake, but the results speak for themselves and it’s this, combined with new higher expectations of buyers, which will drive wider adoption across the estate agency sector.

Customer behaviour has changed, I believe for good, and this will be the main factor driving agents to adopt this technology over the coming months and years. In a nutshell, virtual viewings give ambitious agents the opportunity to steal a march on their competitors – which will become even more crucial when the current market boom subsides. It proves that not only are you prepared to invest in making a property look as good as it possibly can with professional, enhanced photos and floorplans, but you’re also going to create a spectacular 360 tour and show as many people around as possible before only the most serious arrive buyers at the front door. It’s a win-win.

Consumers today are far more comfortable working in a digital world and it's going to be even more important post pandemic to be an estate agent that understands how to use visual content to win instructions and drive dwell time, thus boosting their bottom line and beating the competition hands down.


Lee Wainwright is CEO of FocalAgent, the visual content partner for estate agents.

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