As we Realtors do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19, adopting new strategies and techniques for safely showing properties is essential. Many brokerages are encouraging Realtors to use virtual showings in place of in-person ones. When you can’t meet your clients in person, the best way to show them a house from a safe distance is to use video chat.
It’s hard to believe that any buyer would make such a monumental financial decision without visiting a property. At this time, most do not. A virtual tour via video chat is merely a tool to help buyers vet a property and can be followed up by an in-person showing if they really love the home. Alternatively, some Realtors have been presenting offers with clauses that make the agreement conditional upon viewing the property at a later date.
If you’ve never used video chat apps to conduct showings before, here is your crash course in how to conduct a virtual showing using just your smartphone or tablet.
Step 1: Choose an app that works for you and your clients
Your choice of app will depend on the devices you and your clients have access to, your comfort level with technology and the number of people you want to include on the video chat. Here are some popular options that are easy to use. To use any of these apps, both you and your client must have the app installed or have an account with the web version of the service. More on that below.
For Apple device users, the easiest option for video chat may be a FaceTime call. This method most resembles a typical phone call, with the addition of video. Both you and your clients must have Apple devices (iPhones, iPads or Mac computers) in order to use FaceTime. To make a video call, open the FaceTime app, choose your client’s contact and click the call button.
If FaceTime is not an option, Facebook Messenger could be your video chat tool. This requires both you and your client to have a Facebook account, and to be connected as Friends. Download the Messenger app in advance and log in. We recommend using text chat to confirm that your clients are ready for the tour before starting a video call. To make the call, click the camera button in the top right corner.
A popular alternative video chat app, especially if you are chatting with multiple people in different locations, is Zoom. This easy-to-use app allows you to conference with many people at once and make a recording of the chat for later review. To use this app, visit Zoom.us and sign up for an account. You’ll have to download the app on your mobile device or tablet as well by visiting the App Store (Apple) or Play Store (Android), and sign in there.
Before you head to the showing, schedule a meeting using the Schedule button on the app home screen. Choose your date, time and other settings to create the meeting. Zoom.us provides you with a template invitation, so all you have to do is send an email to your clients. They will use the link in that email to join the meeting when it’s time. Remember, they too have to have the app installed on their device(s) and should do so in advance to save time.
You can chat with up to four people on video using WhatsApp. Like other apps on this list, WhatsApp requires you to create an account and add your clients as contacts before you can chat. To make a video call with WhatsApp, open a chat with your client and click the video camera icon at the top of the screen.
This app has been on the scene for a long time. To use Skype, you need to create an account and choose a username, as will your clients. Add each other as contacts with your usernames. The app can be downloaded onto your mobile device in advance. Starting a video chat is much like starting a phone call. You click on the contact’s name, start call and enable video.
This is the free version of Google Hangouts Meet, and you likely already have access to this app if you use Gmail. If you don’t already have a Google account, you will have to create one and download the app to your mobile device. Add your clients as a contact using their email address and place a video call by selecting the contact and clicking the camera icon at the top of the screen.
Step 2: Connect to Wi-Fi
Ask the listing agent for Wi-Fi login details in advance so that you can show the property with the highest video quality possible. When you arrive at a property, connect to the Wi-Fi before calling your clients. Let the client know that you will need a few minutes to establish a connection and that they should expect your call soon after the appointment begins.
Step 3: Set yourself up to shoot great video
When you place a video call to your clients, make sure you are standing in a spot with good light on your face. By default, all the apps on this list begin a video call using the camera on the front of your phone, so the first thing your clients will see is you. If you’re standing with your back to a window or in a dark spot, all they will see is a shadow.
At the start of the call, take a minute or two to talk to your clients about their expectations for the virtual tour, and give them your first impression of the home. When it’s time to start the tour, engage the camera on the back of your phone by clicking the icon that looks like a camera with circular arrows inside it.
Remember, on any app there will likely be a short delay between what you see or say, and what the client receives on their end. Make sure to pan your device slowly so that the camera can pick up essential details. Speak clearly.
Video chat alone will not sell a house, which is why your experience is so important. While you’re in the house, give your clients the details that can’t be observed on video chat, such as traffic noise from nearby roads, pet odours, drafts and even a sense of scale.
It’s perfectly normal to feel unsure the first time you show a property through video chat. It’s something you’ve probably never done before, and it may take a few minutes for you to find your groove. Keep practicing, and soon you’ll be as comfortable with video chat as you are with in-person showings.
With care and dedication, we can all make a difference in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and help our industry return to business as usual. Stay safe out there, and good luck!
Rachel Hammer is an active member of the Ottawa Real Estate Board with her strong award-winning team. She leads a top-producing residential real estate sub-franchise in the Ottawa area with Royal LePage. Rachel is passionate about working with clients to execute unique strategies based on their needs and is active in the local community.