Peter Schravemade manages strategic relationships at BoxBrownie and travels all over the world, especially the U.S., talking about how to create listing images that sell. But he’s also got a heck of a lot of experience as a sales agent in his own right: “My background is in real estate and that’s all around marketing; my forte was marketing property, residential, commercial and even property management,” he explains. “It was a really key or cornerstone of the way I operated.”
Schravemade will be discussing his picture-perfect ideals at Inman Connect New York, January 29 through February 1 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. We caught up with him to get his international perspective on how to improve listing marketing stateside and what he thinks is coming down the pipeline in terms of trends to watch and opportunities to grab.
Tell us a little more about your session. How will it address how the industry can embrace the shifting market?
The low-fee models with a set commission — they’re nothing new. I’ve seen them come and go. The agents who are operating really well should welcome a tightening market because they are the ones who are effectively marketing property. I teach agents to stop thinking of houses as a house and start thinking of it as a product and delivering that product to the right audience. When the market tightens, the buyer tap gets turned off, so who would buy that property may not be the same as even yesterday. Good agents will identify the product they have and the target audience that the product suits.
Marketing becomes so much more important in a tight market. Because the agents who are cutting corners — if an agent’s willing to work for $2,000 or $1,000 in commission as opposed to what it actually takes to sell a house in the rising market, they’re going to do less for that dollar and they won’t be as motivated. The house will sit on the market longer, you won’t get the price you probably could get.
What we find at BoxBrownie is we can almost predict which markets are softening and it’s harder to sell because we’ve seen that agents’ marketing budgets with us pick up, and our tools become desirable to people who don’t want to spend hundreds on professional photography. For example, instead of staging the house, people look at virtually staging property.
What do you think are the biggest opportunities to focus on in the real estate industry right now?
Marketing can always improve. There are people who come in who might be at step one and I try to move them forward one step at a time. You shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel today, just write down as much as you can and take one or two things that will move you forward as far as marketing is concerned. The state of the photography in America is quite poor internationally; the absence of floor plans despite healthy statistics on what buyers actually want to see, and floor plans are no. 3 behind good images and good copy. There’s so much room for movement.
But if their marketing is pretty good, I’d be looking at new immersive forms of marketing as being the direction buyers want. They do want immersive forms of tech — definitely 360-degree photography, which is not virtual reality. There are formats that are becoming hugely affordable and easily adapted to the smallest mum-and-dad or sole operator property. A 360-degree camera now sits at $300 and anyone can use it. There are videos on our website of my 9-year-old and 11-year-old shooting houses using a 360 camera. It’s not hard tech to use, and it’s not expensive anymore. You can demonstrate to people 10 suburbs away what a house may be like before you arrive at the property, thus saving you time and making the experience better for the purchaser. Those forms of tech are well and truly on their way.
To stay competitive, agents, brokers and companies need to execute quickly. What do you feel are key areas where quick execution can vastly improve the customer experience?
There are hundreds of CRMs on the market out there, but the No. 1 thing that I see on that side that is still done poorly is the initial contact with the incoming lead, the buyer. They are sick of not getting a response. That would be the single biggest thing I see across the American industry. They’re serious, they’re ready to purchase and have made an inquiry, and millennials are now the biggest group of buyers; their expectation is that the response will happen immediately and that has definitely caught the real estate industry napping.
We’ll get millennials asking us questions who expect an answer in 30 seconds, and that’s no different to the buyer experience. They expect short, concise responses sent back to them through text message; a lot of the buyers are operating from things like Facebook Messenger and Instagram. Every time I ask a group of agents in a room to raise their hand as to who’s using Messenger or Instagram, it’s crickets. But your largest group of buyers are using those as tools to buy property. God forbid it should always be done by email, fax and phone calls.
Globally, it’s “buyer beware” and buyers need to do their own due diligence on properties. With relation to the sellers that are out there, I feel that generally they’re covered with the exception of probably there’s not enough of a focus on the fiduciary interest of the seller, the obligation to get them the best possible price. I see very few agents touting that they will do that, but all around the world, that’s really all you’ve got if you’re focused on the seller. In my market, the expectation is that you’ll act in the best interest of the seller no matter what.
Virtual staging, for example — I hear from buyer’s agents that it might misrepresent the property. The flip side to that is that if you don’t stage a property, you’re probably not acting in the best interest of the seller. You’re effectively transacting with them, and if you were selling a house and came to me, and were aware that I was cutting corners, it wouldn’t take you too long to sack me.
What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and what will you be working on?
I’m continuing to travel around America; two years ago, unbeknownst to us, we started a war on poor digital market globally. We didn’t know it was happening at the time, but it is what’s taken place. Inman were the catalyst of that, they brought BoxBrownie to the forefront. We’ve come a long way since then. I have more speaking engagements than I thought were possible, but we will continue the war on poor marketing globally.
We’re also looking at new tech that comes out. We’ve made our own; we’ve done something called virtual renovation that’s quite exciting, it’s going gangbusters, whereby we take an interesting house that may have some kind of problem with it and renovate it virtually. We’re heavily investing in immersive tech, the only company in the world that I know of that edits 360-degree photography. We expect in the next five years for markets to heavily move toward more immersive markets than digital still photography. Still photos will still form a huge key part of where marketing is in the future, but I’m 100-percent sure that we’re going to an immersive marketing format. We can display what a property is like, take Mr. and Mrs. Smith through that property room to room.
We’re looking at ways to deliver that faster and better so people from China can look at a property in Colorado and decide whether they want to invest in it and potentially buy it. Those kinds of tech, even the direction that eXp Realty are taking, we find quite refreshing and different. They’re offering useful tech, I think, and if I had one thing to say overall, it’s that there’s so much noise in the US market about tech, and up to 75 percent of it is tech that can’t be used. It’s restricted either in that it’s expensive, it’s not practical or it’s not what the consumer wants.
Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.
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