Covid-19: Embracing Virtual Technology in the UK Property Market
Updated: Apr 7
Businesses throughout UK have been desperately working to minimise the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the lockdown currently in place, we have seen businesses – the big and small – adapting their models and marketing strategies. We’ve witnessed leading domestic appliance manufacturers designing ventilators, and motor industry giants developing revolutionary respirators. We’ve been motivated as garden centres have become fruit and vegetable suppliers, as fine dining restaurants have become delivery services, and as distilleries have swapped creating gin for hand sanitisers. We’ve also seen numerous estate agents adapting their services; including ‘virtual valuations’ and ‘virtual viewings’ to keep the property market alive and kicking! But will the present pandemic shape the future for marketing property in the UK?
Covid-19: A New threat. Virtual Tours: A New Concept?
The word virtual is quickly becoming the adjective of 2020. Leisure (virtual museums & virtual zoos), education (virtual school lessons), sporting events (virtual grand national), and even forms of affection (virtual hug) are increasingly adopting the use of the word. It seems that we are currently adding virtual before any noun we wish, with the criteria simply being that the ‘thing’ we are referring to has to have been impacted by Covid-19.
Pictures and video have been the bread and butter for marketing properties in the UK for decades. The current situation has meant that estate agents are having to get more creative, and adopt alternative methods to ensure that valuations and viewings can go ahead. We’re seeing valuers arranging video calls with potential sellers, having a live video tour of the property, and a valuation then being given. Likewise, video calls between sellers and potential buyers are being scheduled. However, this is hardly radical and far from revolutionary. In fact, it is behind the times. If the UK property market had already embraced the technology available, the impact of Covid-19 may have been significantly reduced.
Almost every estate agent in the UK uses photographs, less use videos, and very few use virtual tours. In recent years, some estate agents claim to use virtual tours but more often than not these are typically slideshows of images, or a video walk-through.
The use of Virtual Tours is much more established in the US and the impact they have had on the market has been significant; they are proven to win more listings, increase the quality of viewings, achieve higher asking prices, and sell properties quicker. Despite the biggest UK property search engines (Rightmove, On the Market, Zoopla) enabling their websites to include virtual tours, estate agents in the UK do not seem to have fully realised the potential of the technology available.
When we say ‘Virtual’ what do we mean?
We need to explain what we (at View3D) mean when we say Virtual Tour. It’s perhaps easier to first explain
what we do NOT mean! We do NOT mean slideshows, pre-recorded videos, or video calls while someone takes you on a tour. What we mean by a Virtual tour is a 3D interactive experience that puts the viewer in control, despite being in another location. An experience where the viewer is the explorer, and the explorer can look where they want to, can move where they want to, and can explore a space as if they were there. The technology behind virtual tours is becoming more sophisticated and more accessible for users. (If you want to see an example then check out the example at the end).
Why should Estate Agents Use Virtual Tours as the Norm, and not just for a Pandemic?
Here are our top 10 reasons!
1) Win more listings. Winning listings is crucial for estate agents. When trying to win a listing, showing a virtual tour of another property is a powerful tool to help get the deal in the bag. 74% of estate agents that use virtual tours win more listings.
2) Increasing transparency for the agent. We’ve all been there… We find a property online, arrange a viewing, arrive at the location, only to go in and find we are disappointed with ‘oh, it’s smaller than I thought’, or ‘it doesn’t flow like I thought it would’. With a virtual tour it is very much the case of ‘what you see is what you get’. There is no stretching the images, no hiding damp patches, and no avoiding holes in plaster etc. Some may see this as a negative but for us, honesty is the best policy. A Virtual tour is about the viewer seeing what they want to see, and not about a photographer showing what they want to viewer to see (or not see).
3) Properties can be viewed 24/7 from any location (even during a pandemic). A property listing with a virtual tour means that viewings have already begun. With 24 hour accessibility potential viewers can explore the property whenever and however many times they want. This also increases accessibility for potential buyers who live hours away from the location; they can have their first, second and third viewings online. Then if they are interested they can make the journey knowing that they already love the house. Depending on the technology used, the number of visits to the tour can be tracked; including the number of unique visitors to the tour (not just one super-fan viewing it thirty times!).
4) Better quality leads and viewings. Virtual tours generate up to 45% more leads for a property in comparison to those without one. And, because the potential buyer has already seen the house’s size, flow, and character, the estate agent can be sure they are interested… because if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be calling! A recent survey in the US found that 90% of buyers reported they would be more interested in viewing a property physically following a virtual viewing.
5) They are great for customer engagement. Depending on the technology used to create the virtual tour, they can be incredibly interactive. From our experience and having an active eye on the market for the best technology available, we use Matterport Cameras. These enable us to embed text, images, videos, and links to property brochures, directly into the tour. These keep the viewer engaged! They say a buyer decides in the first eight seconds of seeing a home if they're interested in buying it ... so make the first impression as powerful as you can!
6) Cut out the nosy viewers who have no intention of buying. According to a Poll of 2,234 UK residents, 64% of us check property listings at least once a month, but only 13% of us are looking to move. Why? Because we're a nosy bunch! Even more surprising is that 6% of Britons have booked to view a property with no intention of buying. A virtual tour can satisfy the demands of the nosy from the comfort of their own homes, while saving estate agents time!
7) Time Saved: By improving the quality of leads and cutting out those with no intention of buying, a virtual tour saves estate agents time. Additionally, those who have had a physical viewing and love it can continue to view virtually, again saving time… especially when they want to show their relatives …“Why, yes … that’d be fantastic if your parents, grandmother, and second cousin came along while I showed you house today.”
8) Sell properties quicker: Virtual tours have been proven to sell properties quicker. Properties listed with a virtual tour on average spend 31% less time on the market.
9) Achieve a higher selling price: Virtual tours have been proven to achieve higher asking prices of between 4-9%.
10) It’s what the people want: “To be successful in real estate, you must always and consistently put your clients' best interests first” (Anthony Hitt). A recent US survey (including 1000 property sellers and 1000 buyers) concluded that 80% of all respondents said they would switch to an estate agent offering immersive 3D tours. Millennials (83%) and Generation Z (94%) were overwhelmingly in favour of virtual tours for properties. Even more convincing was that 99% of sellers felt that a virtual tour would give their listing the edge over competing properties.
So... 'What will follow Covid-19?'
Estate agents are currently relying on creative means to reduce the economic impact of Covid-19 on the property market. They are breaking free from the traditional practices and marketing strategies. They are beginning to see the potential benefits of using virtual platforms. But when the lockdown ends, when social distancing reduces, and when we try to pick up and rebuild, what will happen with the property market? Will it revert to doing what it has always done because ‘that’s the way we do things here’ or will it continue to engage with the new virtual age?
The benefits are clear. The technology is available. The future is here… Embrace it.