This article was updated on March 4, 2022
What is a virtual open house?
A virtual open house is when an agent shows a home to prospective buyers when they cannot physically visit the home. There are many reasons as to why you would host a virtual open house. It could be because your potential buyers live far away, or it could be to implement social distancing for health reasons. Regardless of the reason, it is better to host a virtual event than not host one at all. A great open house can be crucial in generating interest in a property. For real estate agents, a virtual open house is an additional opportunity to attract potential buyers far beyond the online searches of Zillow and Trulia – and to even get the attention of out-of-state buyers looking to make a move.
The popularity of video technology means that real estate agents are no longer limited to just showing homes from their front doors. Instead, they are going virtual providing accessibility to all potential buyers.
This guide will explain the best practices for how to use video conference tools to host a virtual open house that's just as warm and welcoming as the real deal.
How to Know When to Host A Virtual Open House
Motivated sellers will do almost anything to get their homes sold. Short of wearing a sandwich board advertising their address, most sellers are looking for every opportunity to grab interested buyers’ attention. Naturally, that makes an open house an obvious choice.
It’s a tradition that, according to Realtor.com, dates back to the 1910s as a way to show off new builds to the public. Incentivizing the open house—with the requisite plate of cookies or glass of champagne often seen today—didn’t arrive until 1952 when a Dallas realtor promoted free soft drinks at his open house.
But you can’t serve free drinks and snacks virtually, so when does it make sense to go for a virtual open house? There are a few things to consider:
- Out-of-state buyers – If you’re looking to attract buyers who don’t live nearby—or even in-state—a virtual open house provides exposure and accessibility. It’s a convenient and interactive experience for all buyers despite their geographical location.
- Online searches – Most home buyers begin their searches online. As such, a virtual house tour gives you an immediate advantage over in-person open houses. Virtual house tours allow you to reach more customers through the digital world so that everyone who is interested in the home can attend, no matter where they are.
- House offers – A virtual open house allows buyers to get an up-close look at the property. These buyers will generally have a better understanding of what they’re looking for and you’ll, hopefully, receive more serious offers from potential buyers.
- Social distancing - Offering a virtual tour will promote social distancing while allowing you to show a property to a wider audience with less contact. This option provides safety and comfort to both you and potential buyers during an open house.
Tips For Ensuring a Great Virtual Open House
Like any open house, you want yours to stand out and attract a variety of potential homebuyers. To nail a virtual open house, the same approaches that make an in-person event great need to be considered.
Here’s a virtual open house checklist:
1. Choose the right platform – Many real estate agents know that a few pitfalls come with video conferencing. Picking a platform that will reach the right audience is crucial for a successful virtual open house. For instance, you can hire a videographer to produce a video of the tour, or you can have a live virtual tour using your cell phone and a video streaming platform, like Facebook Live, so viewers can interact in real-time. Research and study the various options to see which would be the best fit for you and potential buyers before announcing the home tour date.
2. Get the word out – Early promotion is essential to garnering the kind of motivated buyers necessary to make a good virtual open house. Sign up as a Neighborhood Sponsor and you’ll be able to post home listings, advertise, and connect with local buyers.
3. Do a dress rehearsal – Take a cue from live theater and practice before the camera rolls. Doing a dry run of the virtual open house tour will help avoid awkward pauses, skipping critical home details, and the dreaded “umms” that can come with public speaking.
4. Have a tech rehearsal too – In theater, there’s the dress rehearsal, where the cast wears costumes and runs the entire show before audiences fill seats, and then there’s the tech rehearsal where all of the mishaps with lightning, music, and sound effects get worked out before curtain call. Take the same approach by testing tech equipment, be it an iPad, mobile device, or video camera, prior to going live to avoid any technical glitches. Run through your pitch with family members or friends for practice.
5. Don’t skip staging – The typical protocols of home selling still apply even if a house is only toured virtually. That means staging is still important to make a space look as good as possible. Maybe even more so. Consider camera angles and lighting to get the best look.
6. Don’t race through space – RIS Media reminds real estate agents to remember to slow down and give viewers plenty of time to show the space. “Aim for 10-20 minutes (depending on the size of the house) of streaming as you take viewers on a virtual open house tour of the home,” the site suggests.
7. Try the buddy system – While some real estate agents are brave enough to go it alone, a virtual tour greatly benefits from a two-person operation where one individual can hold the camera and the other can guide viewers through the space. Team up for optimal virtual showings.
8. Consider a static video – While live virtual home tours give agents the opportunity to interact with potential buyers, real estate agent Eman Hamed recommends that they also consider a static video. She writes that “These are virtual showings that can be filmed ahead of time and posted on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, or placed as stand-alone landing pages on your own website.”
9. Dress for success – The old adage “dress for the job you want” is critical in real estate, a business that in large part relies on first impressions. The same holds true even if that first meeting takes place online. Naturally, clothing should be modest, but also consider colors. What will look best on camera but won’t distract from the home viewing process?10. Think 360 – Many phones and recording devices have the option to create 360-degree images. This can be a selling tool in that they allow a potential buyer to feel a space without being in it. Consider adding a 360-degree image in the static video option.
11. Schedule a day of open houses – Give more bang for a possible buyer’s buck by scheduling a series of virtual open houses. That way a buyer can set aside one morning and see multiple properties at once without having to schedule multiple dates.
What to Do After the Virtual Open House
Hosting a virtual open house, just like holding an in-person open house, is only half the battle in securing a return on investment. Savvy small business owners don’t stop when the camera clicks off. When the virtual tour has concluded, that’s when they know it’s time to capture leads.
Here are some tips to make follow-up fast and efficient.
Use the Virtual Record
One great thing about a virtual home tour is how, on many platforms, the names and emails of those who attended can easily create a list of potential buyers. Use this list to send thank you notes following the virtual open house, suggests Single Property Sites.
Another easy way to follow up with leads is to give viewers an option to opt-in for future information on listings. This could be a newsletter invitation or suggestions to follow your social media account.
Virtual open houses are a brave new world for many real estate agents, so why not humbly ask participants to rate and review their experience? Using this data, real estate agents can make informed decisions on how to make future virtual home tours even better.
Ask for Feedback Live
While the camera is still rolling during the Q&A part of the virtual home tour, ask viewers for their feedback. Real-time responses give real estate agents a chance to connect with potential buyers, show their personality, and build trust—crucial elements in any home sale.
Present a Call to Action
Encourage viewers to stay in touch by dangling a carrot of sorts. Grab potential buyers attention through a brochure of the property details or a follow-up email answering or elaborating on a potential buyer’s question. Additional details like this can keep the conversation going and present an opportunity for you to ask that all-important question: “Which home did you like best?”Building a connection and staying in contact with attendees is the key to a successful virtual open house.
Reach a Bigger Virtual Open House Audience with Nextdoor
With so many online distractions, one of the hardest parts of planning a successful virtual open house is simply getting people to log on and watch. Nextdoor—the neighborhood hub—makes that part easy.
By setting up a Nextdoor Business Page, real estate agents can instantly connect with registered neighbors —aka, the people who would be interested in a local home sale. Not to mention, Nextdoor is one of the best real estate tools for word-of-mouth marketing: 67% of Nextdoor neighbors have shared recommendations and taken part in the online neighborhood experience.
And unlike cumbersome social media apps that require members to “woo” followers, Nextdoor allows real estate agents to connect with neighbors immediately, without building a following. To get started with Nextdoor, you’ll need to :
- Create a free Business Page
- Customize it with photos, contact information, and the company’s background information
- Become a Neighborhood Sponsor to begin engaging and sharing information with neighbors in your target ZIP codes – like the details about your virtual open house
Want to start building more motivated home buyer leads? Nextdoor is where you can start.
Realtor.com. A Brief History of Opening Our Homes to Total Strangers (aka the Open House).
National Association of Realtors.Transaction Guidance During COVID-19. www.nar.realtor/transaction-guidance-during-covid-19
Detroit News. As homebuyers show concern over coronavirus, sellers are stocking open houses with hand sanitizers: study. www.detroitnews.com/story/life/home-garden/2020/03/19/sellers-stocking-open-houses-hand-sanitizers/5074324002/
ReminderMedia.com. Tips for a Successful Virtual Open House. remindermedia.com/blog/tips-for-a-successful-virtual-open-house/
RIS Media. 7 Steps to a Successful Virtual Open House. rismedia.com/2020/04/12/virtual-open-house/
Single Property Sites. How to Host a Virtual Open House That Attracts Buyers + Examples. blog.singlepropertysites.com/2020/04/how-to-host-a-virtual-open-house-that-attracts-buyers-examples/
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