The 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 may have forced us all outside of our technological comfort zones, but homebuyers and buyer’s agents seem to have adapted quite well to our new normal.
Proptech (short for property technology) has grown exponentially since the beginning of 2020, and according to a recent survey of homebuyers, sellers, and real estate agents, the real estate industry is all the better for it. An impressive 85% of buyers and sellers said that the explosion of new property and real estate technology makes them feel empowered to make informed decisions. And 81% of agents surveyed agree that proptech has made their job easier.
Thanks to proptech, buyer’s agents have been able to serve buyers even when state governors issued stay-at-home orders - and even in states that deemed real estate agents as “nonessential.” Because of proptech, 6 in 10 prospective homebuyers said that they participated in a virtual, video, or remote home showing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those, 63% ended up making an offer on a home they had never seen in person.
Pre-pandemic, most buyers would never have even considered buying a home without touring it in person first. But when forced into that situation, the experience was largely positive. 72% of those who bought a home without a physical tour were so happy with the results that they say they would do it again in the future.
And real estate agents are meeting the growing demand for virtual real estate buying experience. 9 in 10 real estate agents report that they invested in more and/or better digital tools since the onset of the pandemic.
Proptech is only going to grow from here. And savvy buyer’s agents are figuring out how to use it to their advantage.
Here are seven ways buyer’s agents are using proptech to sell more homes.
1. Offering Virtual Showings
Virtual showings is a general term that can apply to any property tour that is conducted online. This could be 3D walkthroughs, private tours via video conference tools, pre-recorded video tours published online, or even virtual reality showings using a VR headset.
Just one month into the 2020 pandemic, Housingwire reported that Redfin saw a 494% increase in requests for video tours, and Zillow saw a 326% increase in the creation of 3D home tours.
And buyers love virtual showings! Despite some common technical disruptions like poor signal quality and video lag, 74% of those who toured homes remotely agreed that virtual showings are now their preferred method of viewing properties and will remain so after the pandemic. Virtual showings come with serious benefits for buyers:
84% of buyers appreciate that virtual showings allow them to tour more homes in less time, which enables them to act quickly in today’s competitive seller’s market.
79% of buyers appreciate that virtual showings reduce time spent driving, which means lower emissions and a healthier environment.
87% of buyers appreciate that virtual showings are useful when shopping for homes outside of their local market.
But the benefits aren’t just for buyers. Real estate agents are benefiting from virtual tour proptech as well.
Agents estimate that 60% of home tours, on average, were conducted online over the past year:
48% of respondents used 3D walkthroughs,
45% used video conferencing tools like Zoom or FaceTime,
And an impressive 42% used VR headset technology for their virtual tours.
Buyer’s agents get the same benefits as the buyers. They can show more homes in less time, make less of a negative impact on the environment, and cater to out-of-area buyers.
In fact, 95% of real estate agents agree that they prefer virtual showings.
2. Working from a Virtual Brokerage
Virtual brokerages are real estate companies that operate remotely, with no brick-and-mortar office building.
Virtual brokerages have the advantage of low overhead, technological infrastructure, and a forward-thinking workforce. These advantages allow buyer’s agents to work more efficiently to sell more homes. And most real estate agents aren’t looking back.
88% of real estate agents surveyed say they are currently working from a virtual brokerage. Nearly half of those agents were already working for a virtual brokerage before the pandemic. And many agents naturally started working remotely once the pandemic hit. 10% of agents surveyed are still working from a physical office, but have plans to go virtual in the near future.
Only 1% of agents plan to continue working from a physical office post-pandemic.
3. Promoting Remote Online Notary (RON)
62% of buyers surveyed report that the pandemic forced them to adapt to completely digital buying processes. One of those processes is the closing. Pre-pandemic, remote closings were not common. Buyers were expected to meet with a notary in person to sign their documents and complete the property transfer.
Enter remote online notary (RON) services. As the name implies, RON allows buyers to have their signatures legally notarized remotely. A licensed notary will get on a video conference with your buyers, watch them electronically sign the required documents, and digitally notarize the signatures.
As of May 2021, more than 30 states have adopted RON, and Congress is considering legislation to make RON acceptable nationwide.
If you have buyers who are unwilling to get an in-person notary, either because of COVID concerns, because they are out-of-the-country, or for any other reason, check to see if RON is currently an option in your state.
4. Highlighting IoT During Showings
Younger generations are very interested in smart home technology, also called IoT (Internet of Things).
IoT proptech is about allowing you to control the systems of your home remotely and even having your home systems communicate with one another to make your life easier. We see examples of this all over modern homes:
Smart thermostats that allow you to set your home temperature from your phone.
Smart fridges allow you to order groceries online directly from a touchscreen on the fridge.
Video doorbells allow you to virtually answer your door via your smartphone from anywhere in the world.
Three-quarters of buyers have plans to invest in more IoT technology for their homes in the future. When you’re showing homes, make sure you point out any smart home features that might seal the deal for your buyers.
5. Prospecting via Online Content
Print marketing and traditional advertising on billboards and bus benches might still work in certain markets. But today’s real estate agents are prospecting for buyers online via content marketing.
Social media is a smart way to stay top-of-mind with your sphere and grow your audience. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reports that REALTORS are typically most active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Social media platforms are used for:
Promoting listings, contracts, and closings,
Educating buyers and sellers through helpful tips,
Demonstrating market knowledge,
And engaging on a personal level with followers.
Social media ads allow agents to reach outside their immediate networks to find prospective buyers who might not otherwise see their message.
Blogging is another way to use online content to bring in new leads. Every time you blog, you give search engines more content to index, which makes search engines more likely to recommend your site in response to a user’s search. For example, if a buyer were to search online for the best neighborhoods in your city, your website could come up in the search results if you had a strong blog post about that topic.
6. Responding to Inquiries Faster
One downside to the digital age is that everyone wants immediate assistance. But this also presents buyer’s agents with a unique opportunity to get a competitive advantage. The use of chatbots, which use artificial intelligence to respond immediately to inquiries, is on the rise. Business Insider reports that consumers will spend $142 billion via chatbots worldwide by 2024, up from just $2.8 billion in 2019.
If you’re not quite ready to invest in AI chatbots, consider virtual response services. When you’re unavailable, your clients and prospects can be automatically routed to a call center for immediate assistance. No more missing out on business just because you weren’t available to answer your phone!
7. Giving Buyers the Online Tools They Need
Buyer’s agents are also optimizing their websites to sell more homes.
In our recent survey, buyers chose their top three online features:
#1 Browsing available properties (82%)
#2 Researching neighborhoods (62%)
#3 Using digital tools on the website, such as a mortgage calculator (42%)
Is your real estate website ready to give buyers what they need?
Proptech made giant leaps forward in 2020, and these changes are being embraced by most buyers and buyer’s agents.
Proptech is creating new opportunities for buyer’s agents to better serve their clients, work more efficiently, and sell more homes. 73% of agents say they will keep using the proptech they’ve adopted during COVID long after the pandemic is over.
Whether you’re an active real estate agent looking for a little additional training, or you’re just starting to think about getting your real estate license, AceableAgent has courses to help boost your real estate career. Enroll in one of our five-star real estate courses today.