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In situations where buyers can’t visit homes in person and even agents may have limited access to the properties they’re marketing, how can luxury real estate listings provide a superior presentation online?
“My favorite business quote is from Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. He says, ‘If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete,’” says Jackson Herlong, Broker-in-Charge at Joan Herlong & Associates, Sotheby’s International Realty. “Advertising a home on the internet has been a basic expectation of homebuyers for almost two decades now. If you’re just concerned with meeting the standards of your industry, you won’t ever get ahead.”
Agents need to take a holistic, detailed approach to the virtual presentation of each home. “We have gone listing by listing, link by link, click by click on our website to ensure everything is functioning properly,” says Sergio Llach, President and CEO of Dominican Republic Sotheby’s International Realty. “It has always been important for a listing to stand out online. Today we have more tools available to make a listing catch a buyer’s eye.”
Let’s take a closer look at how these tools, techniques, and strategies can be leveraged to help your own listings stand out. According to Herlong and Llach, here are four of the top considerations that can set your properties apart from the rest.
1. Deliver a welcome distraction
While the first job of a listing is to sell a home, there’s a strong case to be made — especially in times of upheaval — for the escapism to be had in a well-designed property page. “Facing an unprecedented situation where even live sports are cancelled, I realized that people would be glued to their screens, especially on weekends, and hungry for any kind of new content after running out of things to watch on Netflix,” says Herlong. “Real-estate-as-content is universally appealing as an online activity.”
There are tools that can help you connect leads with listings as potential buyers browse their social channels. For example, Social Ad Engine enables agents in the Sotheby’s International Realty network to efficiently promote their properties with custom-built campaign templates, automatically optimizing them for Facebook and Instagram by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning.
It’s a worthwhile investment: by driving awareness of his properties through digital channels, Llach has been seeing his clients turn to real estate for solutions to their current problems. “We’re seeing families searching to purchase homes with large backyards surrounded by trees, and away from the cities. We’re also finding that families who were not ready to make a move pre-crisis, are now considering their options to transact in two to four months.”
Whether or not you have access to tools like Social Ad Engine, creating beautiful listings pages and sharing them on social media is a great way to drive traffic to your property webpages and generate leads directly from Facebook and Instagram. Plus, potential clients will be grateful for the engaging content whether they’re in the market for a new home or not.
2. Virtualize your client touchpoints
When sharing online listings with clients, there are two paths you can follow, depending on your circumstances: you can offer guided virtual tours of the property as it is, or you can design the listing with virtual staging to encourage your clients’ self-guided exploration of the property and its features.
While measures such as social distancing make it impossible for agents and buyers to see a home in person, virtual staging can be the perfect solution. For existing listings, have the home virtually staged to bring outdated furnishings or dark walls into alignment with your clients’ preferred aesthetic. Tools such as CURATE by Sotheby’s International RealtySM allow you to envision the interiors of your homes digitally and adjust furnishings, crafting a more engaging viewing experience for your clients and expanding the appeal of your properties to a broader set of buyers. 3D home tours like those designed by Matterport are another example of a technology agents can leverage to allow their clients to virtually inhabit and navigate a home they can’t visit in person.
“Our company is focused on making it possible for clients to virtually visit our properties in a manner that allows them to form a more accurate impression than simply photos and video,” says Herlong. “By investing in Matterport 3D/VR technology, we have created an online experience that approximates an in-person showing.”
For Llach, these tools have also been table stakes for a long time. “We prioritize 3D tours, 4K videos, high-resolution pictures, AR floor plans, and multilingual property descriptions,” he says. In one recent virtual initiative, Llach’s team set up a 3D tour scavenger hunt, giving participants clues of what to search for in a particular listing. The prizes included gift certificates, and the open invitation meant that the team could extend their reach beyond clients looking to purchase homes right away.
Even when you can’t go to a home or meet with your clients, prioritize connecting personally with your buyers and sellers. “At this time, it’s important to let your clients see your face, and do tons of video calls,” advises Llach.
3. When you can’t show, tell
Turning your listings into consumable virtual content means thinking beyond visual media and engaging audiences through the written word — especially since professional photography and videography services are unavailable to many agents at this time. People don’t just want to see images, they want engaging storytelling that imbues the home with history and personality. Establishing that human connection enables clients to have an emotional connection with the properties you’re listing.
Ask your sellers for their perspective on what’s special about their homes — everything from the design, architecture, and history to their favorite quirks, details, and moments they shared while living there. Adding insights from your colleagues can add a sense of voice and individuality to your descriptions, and make them sound conversational instead of mechanical. “We add specific quotes from the list agent’s view of the property to give the feeling of multi-dialogue interaction,” says Llach.
When your visual and interactive media are sufficient to bring your listings to life, keep your stories crisp and engaging, and include key terms that your leads are likely to be searching for so you can turn your written content into an SEO advantage. “We try to make the descriptions as pithy as possible, while including any detail a potential buyer might care about,” says Herlong. “Less is more!”
4. When it’s safe to do so, update your visuals
It will likely be a gradual process for your real estate practice to return to normal, and business activities will reopen in phases. As government restrictions and advice evolves, consider which services you will prioritize once they become available. For instance, hiring a professional photographer to take more high-resolution pictures, once it’s safe to do so, can help your listings withstand future economic pressure. The same is true of videographers and their ability to provide refreshed materials for your virtual listing, whether through 3D floor plans or a virtual home tour.
Because potential buyers still won’t be able to see properties in person for some time to come, Llach’s team took special care to provide more pictures of the outsides of the homes, as well as their various views and vantage points. When your clients are browsing from home and at a distance, it’s a good practice to overdeliver. “We post more pictures than expected — preferably 30 to 50 per property,” he says.
“All of our properties are marketed to the same baseline standard when it comes to photo and video,” concludes Herlong. “The media for a $500,000 listing must meet the same requirements as a $5 million-dollar listing.”
In times of upheaval or uncertainty, real estate can provide a tangible solution and virtual breathing room for people craving a change of scenery. Identifying creative, inspiring ways to curate listings and provide engaging content is just one of the ways that agents can serve their communities.
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 990 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.