This article was updated on January 25, 2021.
With the current pandemic, the country (and the world) is still living under some sort of restriction. In the real estate industry, hosting in-person open houses has, in many places, been limited or at least greatly discouraged. As we embark on a new year, your health and safety and that of your clients should continue to be a priority. This is why virtual open houses remain a viable alternative to showing a home.
Whether it’s your first or 100th time using video technology, this guide is full of 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 home 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 so 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.
Local Public Health Regulations
As we're still in a pandemic, all small business owners need to make sure they’re in compliance with local public health regulations. That’s just as vital for real estate agents as professionals in any other industry. Should a real estate agent choose to host an open house, in some cases they’re being asked to provide:
- Require COVID-19 screenings, according to the National Association of Realtors
- Supply hand sanitizer
- Require viewers to remove shoes
But for some sellers, all that effort might not be worth the fear of infection. And for real estate agents, it might not be worth the trouble, especially when there’s a safe alternative.
Tips For Ensuring a Great Virtual Open House
It can’t be said enough, in the era of social distancing, the safest option is the no-contact option.
Hosting a virtual open house limits exposure for both homebuyers and sellers. But assuaging health concerns doesn’t ensure a sold house. To nail a virtual open house, the same approaches that make an in-person event great need to be considered.
Here’s a checklist:
- Choose the right platform – Small business owners have been in enough Zoom meetings by now to know the pitfalls of video conferencing. Picking a platform that will reach the right audience is crucial for a successful virtual open house. Research and study the various options before announcing the home tour date.
- 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.
- Do a dress rehearsal – Take a cue from live theater and practice, practice, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t race through the 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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?
- 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.
- 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 change and fix problems for future virtual home tours.
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. A brochure of the property details or a follow-up email answering or elaborating on a potential buyer’s question—these can keep the conversation going and allow you to present a call to action: “Which home did you like best?”
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 verified area members—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 members 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 small business owners to connect with neighbors immediately, without building a following. To get started with Nextdoor, a real estate agent just needs 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). www.realtor.com/news/real-estate-news/brief-history-of-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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