From online showings to all-digital signings and closings, the digital transaction has fully come into its own. All month, Inman examines the companies and technologies driving this new world of digital transaction.
This article is the second part of a three-part series that takes a deep dive into digital transactions.
In this part of the digital transaction series, keeping showings digital (and remote) is the focus. Virtual tours and showings have been around for years, but they moved into the spotlight during early pandemic lockdowns when sellers sometimes had to step in. Agents have adopted FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and others to make remote showings a reality in real-time — but often with issues.
Although these no-cost solutions can often fill the immediate need, they can entail complicated setup, a need for strong cell signal and more. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to overcome with these ad-hoc solutions is that all parties need to coordinate schedules. The “same time online” approach can result in needless delays.
The shortcomings of these “free” solutions often come at a cost, which has given rise to real estate-specific apps that take digital or remote showings to a higher and more professional level. Apps like REveo, HomeRover and others work to bring the home to the buyer — remotely. While first-rate, purpose-built tools are available today, there is still a learning curve.
Fortunately, the Inman Handbook on digital home showings, penned by Inman writer Craig Rowe, details how it all works and even makes recommendations regarding the video capabilities of various phones and pro-level cameras.
According to Arsène Lavaux, founder and CEO at REveo Dynamic Real Estate Showing, these premium real estate apps offer a host of potential benefits to agents including:
- Connecting people: Connecting buyers or buyer’s agents live in a single click from any screen without requiring the buyer to download an app, create an account or even remember a password.
- Instant communication: Instant texting, emailing or posting on social media immediately following the live interaction with clients.
- Security and privacy: Most often, buyers and sellers do not want agents to see them on camera but prefer to tour homes in full visual privacy. Dedicated platforms offer far greater security and privacy for all parties.
- Live and on demand: You can reach anyone, anywhere, both live and on demand at their convenience. Most video-related apps offer either “live” or “on demand” but rarely both.
- Branding options: Integrated design capabilities allow agents to elevate brand equity and strengthen their reputations.
- Collaboration with sellers: Allows agents to work with sellers and stagers to prepare a new listing for going on the market.
- AI-powered scheduling: Some apps now include AI-powered scheduling assistants which eliminate the often slow and painful back-and-forth of trying to arrange showings.
- Lifestyle tours: Enhanced video capabilities allow agents to perform lifestyle tours and narrate their listings to a virtual audience, providing a more personal touch to the digital showing.
- Better previews: While the 360-degree virtual tour has become a staple in the preview experience, buyers sometimes find there is a noticeable difference between the sometimes-distorted “stitched pictures” reality they create and what the listing, and its surroundings, actually look like in person. Dynamic showings allow agents to give potential buyers a more accurate feel for the property.
- Reduction of liability: Use of these apps to document key client showing interactions can potentially reduce legal liabilities. In some apps, the showing agent or broker can interact with clients on all details of the property and make the video available on demand serving to prove proper disclosures were made.
Having the ability to professionally show listings safely and remotely, especially with personal narrative, is key during any busy time but critical given the pandemic. Here are some considerations for both video messaging and virtual showing apps:
- Live or recorded: Do you really have to choose? Evaluate live (synchronous) and recorded (asynchronous) solutions, but know that some solutions offer both.
- Branding: Ensure that apps, portals and videos can be completely customized (without coding) to reflect the brand you or your brokerage have worked hard to create and maintain. Consider the cost “free” tools may have on consumer perception of your digital brand and reputation.
- Test drive: Take advantage of free trials and introductory pricing to try all system features.
Overall, be sure to look at the virtual showing experience in light of the consumer’s digital transaction journey. In the third and final part of this series on digital transactions, we will move past search and showings and onto the signing or closing of the transaction. Stay tuned as we bring the series to a (digital) close.
Marvin Stone serves as senior vice president, business integration for Stewart Title Guaranty Company. Connect with him on Twitter.