A good real estate agent is agile and responsive. You’ve got to be good at thinking on your feet in any sales role — especially with so much at stake. So it’s no wonder that Elders Real Estate has been able to adapt so quickly to the sweeping changes brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the shutdowns were first announced, the real estate industry was one of the first to be hit. Open inspections and auctions were banned, and many sellers decided to wait and see what happened instead of moving forward.
That said, the property market has proven remarkably resilient. Tom Russo, Elders Real Estates’ General Manager, says the rural and regional markets have been particularly strong.
“Our network is largely lifestyle and regional areas, and they’ve been very buoyant. In fact, we’re seeing a huge uptick in enquiries from capital city dwellers looking for a change of lifestyle. People are working from home anyway, so they think – well, why not work in a beautiful location? Regional Australia offers value for money and huge lifestyle benefits that people are really starting to recognise.”
But how to show those gorgeous lifestyle properties off? For this, agents are turning to virtual selling tools.
Stewart O’Brien at Elders Camden Haven has harnessed the power of virtual inspections. Using 3D technology and a smart social media strategy, he’s been able to generate huge interest in his listings and get some great results for sellers.
“For years we’ve been sending out a digital web book that gives buyers all the information they need in one place. They just click on the link to see professional photographs and floor plan, a detailed list of all inclusions, a copy of the rental appraisal and contract plus any approvals that might affect the property,” Stewart says.
But it’s the virtual inspections that are the real game-changer. Agents go to the property equipped with a 3D camera on their phone and walk around it while live streaming to Facebook video. “Buyers can watch while I do it, and it’s interactive. They ask questions which I can answer in real time: maybe they want to see inside a cupboard, or they want to see what the street outside looks like. The seller is online at the same time, so they can also see the sorts of questions buyers are asking and pass the answers on to me.”
Not only that, but a virtual inspection can reach a lot more people than an in-person one. “I advertise upcoming livestreams on our Facebook page, so people know when to log in. The seller can also advertise it across their own socials, so that friends, and friends-of-friends, also know about it. People who wouldn’t have been able to get to a traditional inspection, like interstate buyers, can log on and see the same thing as someone who lives next door.”
The best bit? Once the livestream is completed, the entire walk through is saved as a video. “It’s basically a ten minute advert for the property,” says Stewart. “Anyone can get to it, so if the timing didn’t work out they haven’t missed their chance. Or maybe they did see it live, but now they want to get a second opinion from their parents or a partner — that’s just as simple as sending them a link.” In fact, this increased reach is so great that an open conducted last week had 900 views in the first day, reaching over 1200 people in all. That’s certainly more than you could fit in a lounge room!
Once you’ve enticed the buyers in, how do you sell the property?
At Elders Culburra Beach, Kerry Green has successfully made the switch to online auctions — and achieved some great results for her clients. “I use SoldOnline,” says Kerry. “It’s run by an auctioneer, so he knows what makes a successful auction.”
The technology allows would-be buyers to connect from anywhere in the country, widening the net for a potential sale. After a simple ID check, buyers are issued with a bid number and can make their move on the spot. “It’s great for transparency, because everyone has a bid number, but it’s also really comfortable for shyer bidders. Maybe they don’t want to risk doing the wrong thing in a crowd, but from the comfort of their own house they’re more likely to give it a go,” Kerry says.
Sellers can log in and watch the action too. “The figure goes from red to green once the reserve is met, so they can see how the auction is doing. It’s pretty exciting, you know, watching the figures tick upwards. It’s a buzz.”
Buyers seem to like it as well. “I’ve had some really positive feedback,” says Kerry. “I had a buyer the other day who just missed out on a property, but I’d told her I had another auction coming up a couple of hours later so she registered for that one too! In the old days, that probably wouldn’t have happened.”
In fact, the trial has been so successful that Kerry hopes to keep using the technology even after the country is re-opened. “I just love it. I’d run auctions like this all the time if I could.”
As things open up, will agents go back to the old ways? Tom thinks there’s room for both.
“It’s been great to see our agents adopting these new technologies so well,” he says. “I think there’s definitely a place for them going forward. Especially for rural properties or properties which might attract a lot of interstate buyers, the ability to reach buyers who can’t travel is really valuable. But nothing beats the excitement of an in-person auction, with a crowd of eager buyers and onlookers ready to fall in love with a property. Our agents are deeply embedded in their local communities, they know the area, and doing business in person is the best way to share that love with new people. I think that good agents will be able to decide which method is better for each property, and tailor their selling strategy to match.”