Can luxury properties be sold without a client site visit? The upsurge in virtual viewings this past year has shown that the answer is sometimes an emphatic yes—but it takes a dedicated agent to make the sale possible. Here, four real estate professionals share their firsthand experience closing with clients that had never physically set foot in their new homes.
Leverage the power of video-sharing platforms
When Katie Gay, Sales Associate with Heritage House Sotheby’s International Realty, saw the potential of virtual showings, she wasted no time learning the essentials. “I attended a virtual training provided by the Sotheby’s International Realty brand in partnership with Facebook to learn the nuances of going live for a virtual open house. With some best practices in mind and my newly minted selfie stick, I went live on my Facebook Business page for the first time. My 13 years of experience in television production for ABC News came in handy, and my approach was to make it informational and fun for the viewer.”
Her virtual open house was a success, allowing her to showcase the best features of her listing while simultaneously answering questions from the audience—an audience that extended well beyond the local area due to the promotions she’d done prior to the event. It went so well that Gay looked for an effective way to reach an even larger online audience with the recorded materials.
“I submitted my recording to the Sotheby’s International Realty YouTube channel. Shortly after, I received a call from an agent who was representing an out-of-state buyer. I offered to share my video since it had extensive and detailed information about the property and the area. The buyer viewed the video on the YouTube channel; they quickly submitted an offer and we closed on the property in August of this year.”
The takeaway: As Gay notes, it’s not just the content that’s critical, it’s having access to the right digital channels and company resources. “Simply creating the video is only the first step,” she says. “Ensuring that you, your company, and your brand have a strategic distribution plan will make your efforts effective.”
Seize new opportunities as they arise
Shelley Blyth, Associate Broker at Sotheby’s International Realty’s 326 Grant Avenue Brokerage in Santa Fe, specializes in resort and second homes. That means understanding a client’s wish list and providing truly personalized virtual tours is crucial.
Blyth saw personalization come into play with a New Jersey-based buyer this past fall. “We had done video tours at a number of homes and I had a good feel for what they were looking for in their dream home,” she says. “One day, we had literally just finished a video tour and were discussing offers when a neighboring property hit the market that I knew would be perfect.”
She leaped into action. “I was able to get an immediate showing scheduled, walk them through on a virtual tour, and had an offer submitted within a few hours. It was a multiple-offer situation well above list price. If we hadn’t jumped in with a virtual showing, we would have lost out. They just closed last week and are thrilled!”
The takeaway: Blyth encourages all agents to talk to their sellers about the increased exposure available through virtual tours. “One of my recent listings had multiple showing requests the first day; six were virtual tours and all six wrote offers, and it resulted in a final selling price well over list. Virtual buyers are indeed serious buyers—maybe even more so if they have a good broker guiding them in the marketplace.”
Differentiate homes through the details
For Jonathan Rivers, Managing Broker for Premier Sotheby’s International Realty at Linville Ridge, virtual tours have provided an ideal platform to help buyers fall in love with all the subtle features that truly make a property one-of-a-kind. He recounts one case where he was helping a client based in California to find an ideal sanctuary in the mountains of North Carolina.
“The client was familiar with the area, but he had done all of his searching on the internet. Once we narrowed down what he was looking for, we did FaceTime tours at the homes he was interested in.”
While photos and videos can help clients understand the home’s layout, virtual tours are an opportunity to convey all the unique value-adds. “The client could appreciate the finishes and fine touches the home had,” says Rivers. “I was present in the video too, but speaking from behind the camera so as to not distract from the client seeing the home. I flipped the camera view around when questions were asked. He ended up putting in an offer on this favorite home and proceeded to a remote closing from California without ever seeing the property in person.”
The takeaway: Virtual tours allow you to do the home justice. “I think the most important part is to go slow enough that the client is able to take in the whole video and view the home at their pace,” says Rivers. “We tend to move fast sometimes, but it’s nice to slow down.
Make the most of multiple tools and technologies
Like Blyth, Greg Bloss, Vice President and Realtor Broker-In-Charge at Oceanfront Sotheby’s International Realty, specializes in Hawaii’s vacation home market—nearly 70 percent of his transactions involve buyers or sellers who do not live in Hawaii.
As a result, Bloss had always maintained the virtual tools needed to support remote viewing, including high-quality video and virtual tours on listings pages, as well as Matterport 3D tours. “On one particular sale, my clients in Florida were anxious to move to Hawaii, and were able first to identify the condos they liked by touring properties with Matterport,” he says. “As we narrowed down to a few properties, we used Facebook Live to do an actual walkthrough of the properties until they found the one they wanted.”
That’s why Bloss recommends having multiple options for clients to digitally interact with the homes they’re interested in. The same principle applies to video call software. “We still use Apple’s FaceTime, but we eventually incorporated Zoom because one of our buyers did not have an iPhone,” he says. “Zoom allows the buyers to invite anyone they want to be a part of the viewing process, regardless of their phone or computer platform, and even allows us to record it and send it to them for reference.”
The takeaway: Experience in multiple technologies lets you suit your communication style to your clients’. “By embracing a variety of remote viewing options, virtual private tours, virtual open houses, Matterport, Zoom, and FaceTime, we are able to quickly adapt and continue to represent our client’s needs.”
Virtual showings offer greater flexibility to buyers, sellers, and agents alike by reducing the need to travel and shortening wait times. They’re a cornerstone of the new luxury real estate marketing mix, and agents who use them well are a valuable resource to their clients.
About Sotheby’s International Realty
Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 1,000 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.com.
The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.