How to show a house at its best to a remote audience

  • March 30, 2020
  • John Rich

[With text from]

Taking an open house fully virtual

Open Houses are one of the first opportunities homebuyers take to get a firsthand feel for a property, and ultimately decide if it’s a good fit - so what happens when they can’t visit in person?

If you have the technical know-how (and it doesn’t take a lot!), it is absolutely worth offering a virtual open house for your upcoming listings. If it’s done right, it can be extremely effective. If it’s poorly executed, you run the risk of presenting a lacklustre picture of an otherwise spectacular property. Here’s how you can help your clients see their dream home, even if they can’t be physically present.

The Walkthrough: It can be an art and a science!

First things first: to provide a virtual open house, you need the proper technology. If both you and your buyer have Apple devices, then FaceTime might seem like the clear winner — but there are other options you can consider as well, such as Skype, Zoom, or - the most important - social media. Facebook Live and Instagram Live can help you immerse your client in the property, with the added bonus that you’re driving them towards your own digital marketing channels.

From there, a virtual open house involves walking clients through the property so they can get a sense of the layout, the rooms, the lighting, and the architecture — but it’s not necessarily as simple as it sounds. Here are three things all agents need to remember as they host a video tour.

1. Let the home be the star of the show

Tempting as it may be to take centre stage in your virtual tour, your most important job is to minimize your own presence while providing valuable commentary. When it comes to narration, less is always more: people want a visual perspective of the home — and there’s nothing quite as distracting as the play-by-play of a chatty host.

2. Point out the property’s finest features

Pay attention to the details. As REALTORS, you have all been to many beautiful homes and it’s easy to gloss over the extraordinary flourishes and finishes that make these properties shine — and if you’re not actively focusing on them, they’ll be missed in your virtual walkthrough. Go in for a closeup of the high-end appliances, the handcrafted faucet, the contemporary lighting fixtures, or the carefully laid hardwood floors. The home is the gallery, and you’re the curator.

3. Understand your client’s unique tastes

If you know your buyer well enough, you can engage them by spending extra time on the parts of the property that matter most. If they have pets, show them the ample yard and the fencing. If they’re into horticulture, get a visual of the flowers in the garden. Are they avid about art? Point out the pristine white wall space and wide corridors. Like every other aspect of real estate, personalization is essential to success.

The challenges of virtual open houses

During this unprecedented time, there are undoubtedly challenges that we must overcome - but that can absolutely be done. A virtual open house is like sending your client an e-book instead of taking them to the bookstore: we all love the convenience of Kobo, but we inevitably miss the smell of the books, the texture of the pages, and the possibility of discovering something unexpectedly great.

Because of this, virtual open houses and showings tend to be most effective when buyers either absolutely can’t make it to the property in person, or when they’re in the market for a second home. When clients are shopping for as a first time home buyer, they usually want to view it up close and personal — but for those looking for something like an investment property, a vacation home, or are perhaps going through a tough time in their life and need to find a residence as soon as possible, a virtual open house can be just right.

As with in-person showings, the more meticulous you can be in your preparation for a virtual open house, the better. Here are three things to consider when taking your open house online:

  • Remind clients to go to Google Earth and really see where the home is located — the surrounding houses, landscape, attractions, and amenities, and even the closeness of the nearest neighbour. With Street View, they can get a sense of what the street and general outdoor areas look like.
  • Drive by the property at different times of day and share pictures and video with your clients. A virtual open house won’t necessarily help your clients see the beauty of sunrise or the tranquility of twilight at the home, nor will it show them the amount of traffic whizzing by at the height of the afternoon.
  • Provide as much visual context as possible — that might mean taking video from the front walkway, the windows, the balcony. Think about the home from all angles.

While a live virtual open house is a great way to connect with your client in the home, recorded video gives them something they can revisit over and over. If you want to create the best possible impression, you can hire a professional videographer if the situation allows, or you can shoot and edit one yourself in minutes. And another added benefit to this: we know for a fact when property websites have footage, and not just photographs, they have more page views.

The ease that virtual open houses provide will never override the value of visiting and experiencing a home for the first time. But situations can arise when it becomes impractical or impossible for buyers to travel to see the property — and when that happens, there’s no better way to serve your clients and earn their confidence than by offering an elegant, effective, and time-efficient alternative.